Feature

Health scare of the week: It’s not the meat, it’s the bacon

People who eat a lot of processed meats are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes.

Eating red meat may not be as bad for your heart as previously thought, Harvard researchers have found. But what’s cured could ail you: The same study found that regularly eating even small amounts of bacon, hot dogs, and other processed meat can dramatically increase one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. The researchers analyzed the findings of 20 health studies, involving a million participants from 10 countries. The pooled results revealed that people who ate 2 ounces a day of bacon, hot dogs, or other processed meat were 42 percent more likely to develop heart disease and 19 percent more likely to develop diabetes; in contrast, those who ate 4 ounces of beef, pork, lamb, or game showed no increased risk. The culprits, scientists suspect, are the heavy doses of salt and nitrate preservatives in processed meats. The findings do not mean that a diet heavy in red meat is healthful; it has been implicated in a higher incidence of colon cancer. But if it’s meat you crave, go with the burger or steak, and skip the bacon and the hot dogs, researcher Dariush Mozaffarian tells The Wall Street Journal. “If once in a while somebody wants to eat meat, our study suggests steak or other unprocessed cuts aren’t going to increase their heart risk,” he said.

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