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Dangers of Processed Meats

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Dangers of Processed Meats

Dr. Christiane Northrup
Dr. Christiane Northrup More by this author
Jun 30, 2010 at 03:33 AM 0 comments

The added sugars in processed foods aren’t the only reason they’re unhealthy for you. The sodium and preservatives these foods often contain are also far from harmless. Recent research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows for the first time that processed meats contribute to higher levels of both diabetes and heart disease.1 According to a 2010 meta-analysis that examined data from 20 different studies looking at one million adults from 10 countries around the world, daily consumption of 50 grams of processed meat (the equivalent of either one typical U.S. hot dog or two slices of deli meat) was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease and a 19 percent increased risk of diabetes. Processed meats were defined as those that had been preserved by smoking, curing, or salting (which also includes sausage and bacon).

However, eating twice as much unprocessed red meat a day didn’t raise risk of either heart disease or diabetes. This certainly shouldn’t be seen as a license to bring on the double cheeseburgers with impunity, but it is a caution about the dangerous effects of the added ingredients in processed foods. The researchers found that while the red meats and processed meats had similar amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, the processed meats had four times the amount of sodium and 50 percent more preservatives (such as nitrates) than did the unprocessed red meat.


  1. Micha, R., et al. (June 1, 2010). Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation, 121, 2271-83.
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