Processed Meat And Health Risks: A Review In Europe
Most animal advocates – and health professionals more broadly – know that eating processed meat can have serious health implications. Because processed meat tends to be high in cholesterol and saturated fat, it has been linked to increases in coronary heart disease. Studies have looked at the links between meat consumption and mortality rates, and one recent study at Oxford, the “European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition [EPIC]” study, showed that both vegetarians and “non-vegetarians with a health conscious lifestyle” had significantly lower mortality rates than the general British public. However, current analysis of the data isn’t entirely clear on the role that processed meat plays in this dynamic or the extent to which physical fitness might mitigate the negative effects of meat consumption.
The EPIC study draws data from 500,000 participants across ten different European countries and considers a variety of diets and health outcomes. The goal of the study was to determine whether red and processed meat consumption is associated with overall mortality rates and mortality rates due to specific diseases. The study’s researchers found that while both a high consumption of red and processed meat is associated with increased mortality rates, processed meat is associated with higher overall mortality rates than red meat. They also found that individuals who consume large amounts of processed meat (160+ grams per day) are at greater risk for an early death due primarily to cardiovascular disease and, to a lesser extent, cancer (if consuming 80 to 160 grams of processed meat per day).
The study authors conclude that if processed meat consumption dropped to less than 20 grams per day, mortality rates could also drop by 3.3%. As such, they note that health promotion campaigns should emphasize ways that individuals can decrease the amount of processed meat in their diets. For animal advocates, this study offers yet more evidence for the health benefits of adopting a meat-free diet.