Red meat-and processed meat in particular-has been linked to heart failure in men and breast cancer in women this week.
There's a strong association between processed meat, such as ham, salami, sausages, bacon and hot dogs, and heart failure in men. For every 50 grams of processed meat-which is equivalent to one slice of ham, for example-eaten every day, the risk of death from heart failure rises by 38 per cent. Heavy processed-meat eaters are twice as likely to die from heart failure as men who eat small amounts of the meats every day.
The association was discovered when researchers reviewed the lifestyles of 37,035 men aged between 45 and 79 who were tracked for 12 years. During that time, 2,891 men were diagnosed with heart failure, and 266 died from it.
There was no increased risk in men who ate red meat, but didn't eat processed meats-but there did seem to be some association to breast cancer in women who ate a lot of red meat when they were young.
Harvard researchers, who tracked the health of 88,803 women aged from 23 to 49, found that the diets of the 2,830 women who developed breast cancer included more red meat compared to healthy women when they were younger.
The researchers estimate that women who replace a serving of red meat with poultry reduce the risk of breast cancer by 17 per cent, and adding more nuts and fish also reduce the risk by 14 per cent.
(Sources: heart disease: Circ Heart Fail, 2014; doi: 10.1161/Circheartfailure.113.000921; breast cancer: BMJ, 2014; 348: g3437)