Post by Nancy Shute, The Salt at NPR Food (3/6/13)
Bacon and bologna are hardly health food. But a huge new study offers the strongest evidence yet that eating processed meat boosts the risk of the two big killers, cancer and heart disease.
A multinational group of scientists tracked the health and eating habits of bacon-loving Brits, wurst-munching Germans, jamon aficionados in Spain, as well as residents of seven other European countries — almost a half-million people in all.
They found that people who ate a lot of processed meats – more than 20 grams a day, the equivalent of one thin strip of bacon – were much more likely to die of heart attacks and stroke, and also had a higher cancer risk. The more processed meats they ate, the greater the risk.
That's not a huge surprise. Processed meats are notoriously high in fat, which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. And this study squares with others on the risks of processed meats, including one 2012 study that found that people who ate one serving of processed meat a day increased their risk of death from cancer and heart disease by 20 percent, while people who eat red meat once a day increased their risk by 13 percent, compared to people who eat very little meat.