Eating just two sausages per week increases your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and early death, a multinational team of researchers have warned.
The team, led by experts at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Canada, tracked the diets and health outcomes of 134,297 people from 21 countries spanning five continents, including Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Sweden and China.
They found a 46 per cent higher risk of major CVD events, like heart disease and stroke, as well as a 51 per cent higher risk of death among those who ate at least 150g a week of processed meat, compared with those who ate no processed meat.
Assuming 75g is a single sausage, this equates to just two sausages per week – but the risk applies to any form of processed meats, the experts warn.
Processed meats are meats that have been preserved by smoking or salting, curing or adding chemical preservatives.
Consumption of processed meats – such as sausages, ham, pâté, corned beef, smoked meat, salami and cured bacon – should be completely avoided, according to the American Society for Nutrition, which published the study.
Research published earlier this month has already revealed just one rasher of bacon a day increases the risk of getting dementia by 44 per cent.
It’s also already known that eating a lot of processed meat increases your risk of bowel cancer.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that consumption of processed meat is ‘carcinogenic to humans’.
But research has also shown that also that processed meat causes CVD – which a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, including blood pressure, stroke and vascular dementia.
All the different types of CVDs combined make it the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year, according to WHO.
‘We found an adverse association between processed meat intake and health outcomes,’ researchers say in their new paper, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
‘These findings may indicate that limiting the intake of processed meat should be encouraged.’
Consumption of unprocessed red meat and unprocessed poultry was not found to be associated with mortality nor major CVD events.
The amounts of preservative and food additives in processed and unprocessed meats differ markedly, which may partly explain their different effects on health, according to the team.
‘The totality of the available data indicates that consuming a modest amount of unprocessed meat as part of a healthy dietary pattern is unlikely to be harmful,’ said study co-author Dr. Mahshid Dehghan at McMaster University, Canada.
Evidence of an association between meat intake and CVD has so far been inconsistent.
‘We therefore wanted to better understand the associations between intakes of unprocessed red meat, poultry, and processed meat with major cardiovascular disease events and mortality,’ said study author Dr. Romaina Iqbal at the Department of Community Health Sciences and Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.