Harvard Researchers Say “NO” to Processed Meat

Meat and heart disease… it can be a match made in Heaven or a match made in Hell, depending upon how you view it.  Harvard University researchers have recently revealed a surprising nuance in the effects that meat can have on a person’s increased risk of heart disease.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the type of meat that was under scrutiny in determining the ultimate risk a person has of heart disease.  Instead, it was the way in which the meat was processed.  Interestingly, 20 studies examined and scrutinized by Harvard researchers conclude that consuming a 3.5 ounce serving of red meat did not increase a person’s risk of heart disease.  In fact, this consumption had no overall effect on an individual’s chances of acquiring this disease. Unfortunately, however, a 1.8 ounce serving of processed meat (i.e. assorted deli-meats) yielded more than a 40% increase in the risk of heart disease.  Therefore, your consumption of meats can affect your risk of heart disease depending upon whether or not the meat is unprocessed (beef, lamb, pork, chicken breast), or processed (lunch meat, sausage, bacon).  The studies concluded that the amount of saturated fat in all meat products didn’t raise as much concern as the excessive quantities of sodium and preservatives found in the processed meat.  The excessive quantities of sodium in the processed meats can result in high blood pressure and the preservatives in the processed meats can result in the restriction and hardening of the arteries.  High blood pressure in combination with the narrowing of one’s arteries is what ultimately leads to a greater susceptibility and likelihood of acquiring heart disease (Girdwain).

So what to do, what to do?  First, try to limit the amount of deli-meat that you consume, and substitute this processed meat with your own homemade version.  If you enjoy deli turkey breast, purchase a whole turkey in its unprocessed form, cook it, shave it, and put it into your sandwich.  Same goes for deli chicken, ham, and roast-beef.  If you’re a fan of bologna and salami, I’m sorry to say that for the sake of your health you probably shouldn’t be, but that’s another blog post for another day.  Before purchasing sausage or bacon, be sure to look at the ingredient labels, and choose the one that has been processed the least and also the one that contains the least amount of sodium.  Another completely viable option is looking for “meatless” ways to get your protein in… nuts, seafood, shellfish, tofu, Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, and beans would be excellent choices!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Girdwain, Jessica. “The Skinny on Fat.”  The Oprah Magazine.  July 2014:  64.  Print.  29 September 2014.  

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2 thoughts on “Harvard Researchers Say “NO” to Processed Meat

  1. Sam LaRussa

    Interesting… it’s so fascinating to see opinion swinging back towards saturated fat and red meat. Last year, this would have seemed ridiculous. It just goes to show that we really don’t know all that we can about nutrition– and that I shouldn’t feel so guilty about today’s cheeseburger.

    1. You shouldn’t feel so guilty about today’s cheeseburger is right… that is, unless it was conventionally raised and not grass-fed! 🙂 Just kidding! Anyway, you’re absolutely right- nutrition is an interdisciplinary and dynamic field and we are figuring out new things about nutrition every day.

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