Meat May Increase Heart Failure Risk


Pepperoni, salami and bologna might taste good on a sandwich, but eating too much can be detrimental to a man’s health. A new study published by the American Heart Association (AHA) found that processed red meat may increase men’s’ risk of fatal heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle loses the ability to pump enough blood to support the body’s oxygen needs. The heart tries to compensate for the inability by enlarging, developing muscle mass and pumping faster. The blood vessels then narrow to keep the blood pressure up and the body diverts blood flow away from less important organs to the heart and brain. Eventually these processes stop working and, if not treated, lead to premature death. The condition affects about 6 million people in the United States, half of whom will die within five years of being diagnosed.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm examined how unprocessed and processed red meats affected the risk of heart failure in men. For 12 years they followed over 37,035 men between 45 and 79-years old who had no history of heart problems or cancer. Between 1998 and 2010 the men’s food choices and other lifestyle factors were monitored and recorded. The men had to self-report, answering questionnaires with information pertinent to the study.

Of the 37,035 men in the study, 2,891 developed heart failure and 266 died of heart failure. Men who ate the 75 grams of processed meat or more a day were 28 percent more likely to develop heart failure than men who ate 25 grams or less daily. Men who consumed the highest amount of processed red meat were twice as likely to die from heart failure as men who consumed the least.

According to the research, the risk of heart failure increased by eight percent per 50-gram increase in daily processed red meat consumption. The chance of dying of heart failure went up by 38 percent with the same increase in consumption. There was no observed association between heart failure or death in men who ate red meat which was unprocessed, such as pork or beef.

Experts suggest limiting red meat to one to two servings a week or less. The AHA recommends a diet high in fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products. Fish with high omega-3 fatty acid content like salmon and trout are especially beneficially and should be eaten at least three times a week.

Because processed red meat usually contains more sodium and additives like nitrates and phosphates than unprocessed meat, it might contribute to increased risk of heart failure, according to Alicja Wolk, D.M.Sc., who authored the study. Unprocessed meats have no additives and typically less sodium, she said.

Although the study, which was published in the AHA journal Circulation: Heart Failure, did not conclude that daily consumption of bacon, ham and sausage is a direct cause of heart failure, processed red meat may indeed increase heart failure risk for men. Reducing processed red meat intake might lead to a longer life without heart problems.

By Brandi M. Fleeks

NBC News
Medical News Today
American Heart Association

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