Is Bacon Killing Us?

Eating red meat and processed meat are riskier for our health than we think.

Posted: 03/26/2012 02:15 PM EDT
Bacon, Eating Disorders, healthy eating, overeating, vegetarian, obesity, Health News, heart disease, fast food

Meat lovers beware.

 

A new report suggests that eating too much red meat and processed meat can have a negative impact on our health. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from two large studies — the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study — and found the following:

— People who consumed about one serving of red meat (beef, pork or lamb) per day had a 13 percent increased risk of dying, compared with those who were eating very little meat.

— When it comes to processed meats such as hot dogs and cold cuts, the impact was greater: a 20 percent increased risk of dying from heart diseases and cancer.

— People who swapped out one serving of red meat with other sources of protein reduced their risk of death. Eating chicken and other poultry decreased the risk by 14 percent, fish decreased the risks by 7 percent and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) decreased the risk by 10 percent.

People who ate more red meat were less likely to work out, more likely to smoke and more likely to have a higher BMI.

— If people in the study had eaten half as much meat, the researchers estimated that death rates among men would decrease by 9.3 percent and 7.6 percent in women.

These findings are alarming, but the researchers are clear: They are not telling us to become vegetarian or vegan.

Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told NPR that the key is moderation. "We're not talking about a vegetarian diet,” he told NPR. “A moderate consumption, for example one serving every other day, I think is fine."

The team suggests saving bacon, sausage and other processed meats for special occasions as opposed to making it a staple in our everyday diets.

It's not clear as to why processed meats are bad for people. Some experts hypothesize that iron in meat turns the preservatives into cancer-causing agents. Some believe that grilling red meat over an open flame may create cancer-causing agents as well. But more research needs to be done in order to get to the bottom of the health dilemma.

So why does this matter to African-Americans?

Plenty of reasons: Not only do we already have a lower life expectancy than our white counterparts, but we also are disproportionately obese and overweight, we are seriously affected by heart disease and are more likely to die of certain cancers. What we eat has a big impact on our overall health, so be aware.
  
How much red meat and processed meat do you consume each day?

BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

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