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Processed meat increases the risk of early death, a study suggests.
The study, published in BMC Medicine, said those who eat a high number of processed meats such as ham, sausages and bacon were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, cancer and die young.
Around half a million people from 10 European countries were followed for an average of almost 13 years.
Those that ate the most processed meat were also found to eat less fruit and vegetables and were more likely to smoke, which the British Heart Foundation (BNF) said ‘may have had an impact on the results’.
Researchers from the University of Zurich estimated 3% of premature deaths could be prevented every year if people ate less than 20 grams of processed meat per day – equivalent to a rasher of bacon, a chipolata sausage or a thin slice of ham.
However, a small amount of red meat appeared to be beneficial to health.
The BNF urged people to opt for leaner cuts of red meat.
Health Dietitian at the BNF Tracy Parker said: ‘With spring in the air, many may be looking forward to sunny barbeques. But this research suggests processed meat, such as sausages and burgers, may be linked to an increased risk of early death.
‘Red meat can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Opting for leaner cuts and using healthier cooking methods such as grilling will help to keep the heart healthy.’