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Avoid heart failure: don’t eat processed red meat

The investigators found that processed meat positively associated with risk of heart failure at a statistically significant level
The investigators found that processed meat positively associated with risk of heart failure at a statistically significant level
Robin Wulffson, MD

According to a new study, consuming processed red meat poses a risk for heart failure. The study was published online on June 13 in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) and Warsaw University of Life Sciences (Warsaw, Poland).

The study authors note that studies evaluating the consumption of red meat in regard to risk of heart failure are rare. Therefore, they conducted a study to assess the associations of unprocessed and processed red meat consumption with heart failure incidence and mortality among men. The study group comprised 37,035 Swedish men, with no history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease, or cancer at study enrollment. Meat consumption was evaluated via a self-administered questionnaire in 1997. During an average follow-up of 11.8 years, 2,891 incidences and 266 deaths from heart failure occurred. The investigators found that processed meat positively associated with risk of heart failure at a statistically significant level.

Men who consumed 75 or more grams daily (3 ounces) of processed meat compared to those who consumed less than 25 grams daily (1 ounce) had a 1.28-fold increased risk of heart failure and a 2.43-fold increased risk of death from heart failure. In addition, for every 50 gram daily increase in processed meat consumption––2 ounces or three equivalent of one or two extra slices of ham––the risk of heart failure increased by about 8% and risk of death from heart failure increased by 38%. However, the consumption of unprocessed meat was not associated with increased risk of incidence of heart failure or death from heart failure.

The investigators concluded that this study of men with low to moderate red meat consumption indicated that processed red meat consumption, but not unprocessed red meat, was associated with an increased risk of heart failure. Despite the lack of risk found with unprocessed red meat, the study authors recommended limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less.