Red meat has been given a bad rep over the years. There have been numerous studies done which have stated that many dietary issues are the results of eating red meat. A team from the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed numerous studies and their finds suggest that the real culprit is not so much red meat, it’s processed foods, like hot dogs and cold cuts (lunch meats).
For their study, the Harvard School of Public Health selected 20 studies involving more than 1.2 million participants from 10 countries who were followed for up to 18 years. More than 23,000 people developed heart disease, more than 2,200 had strokes, and more than 10,000 had diabetes.
The official conclusion from the abstract of their study is:
Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of CHD and diabetes mellitus. These results highlight the need for better understanding of potential mechanisms of effects and for particular focus on processed meats for dietary and policy recommendations.
The researchers found that, after pooling the results from the study, the consumption of unprocessed red meat was not associated with heart disease or diabetes. However, they found that people who ate at least one serving a day of processed red meat, that being either one hot dog or two slices of deli meats (cold cuts), showed a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of diabetes than people who did not eat processed red meat. That’s just two slices of deli meat. People who consume these types of foods often eat much more than two slices.
An article on Boston.com on this topic did some further research and receive this topic. They contacted The American Meat Institute Foundation. This institute took issue with the Harvard findings.
“At best, this hypothesis merits further study. It is certainly no reason for dietary changes,” James H. Hodges, the trade group’s president, said in an e-mailed statement. “The body of evidence clearly demonstrates that processed meat is a healthy part of a balanced diet. Meat contains protein, amino acids and essential nutrients like iron and zinc that are the keys to good health.”
The researchers indicated the main differences between processed and non-processed meats were the salt, the preservatives (nitrates). The salt found in processed meats is as much as four times the amount of salt that that is in unprocessed meats. So the increased salt may be a key contributor to high blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart disease. The processed meat preservatives such as nitrates have been linked to lowered glucose tolerance, which is a factor in diabetes.
So if you are serious in your efforts to stave off the possibility of getting diabetes or heart disease, you might want to dramatically decrease your consumption of deli meats and cold cuts.
Many other studies also suggest that people should dramatically decrease their consumption of all red meats. However, this study the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that processed meats may be the main reason why people get heart disease and diabetes.