Eating just two portions of red meat per week linked to 'increased risk of heart attack and stroke'

Just one or two portions of processed meat like bacon sandwiches a week could increase the risk of heart attack [Photo: Getty]

Bacon sandwich fans take note. Eating just a couple of bacon ‘butties’ or sausage rolls a week “could trigger heart attack or stroke”, new research has suggested.

We know we need to cut down on our weekly fill of processed meat, but there’s now even more evidence to suggest we should be stepping away from the sausage sandwiches.

The US research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, analysed 29,682 people from six different studies, over an average of about 19 years and found a small but significant association between eating two servings of meat, including poultry, per week and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Participants who ate two servings of red meat, processed meat, or poultry a week had a 3-7% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

But consuming two servings of red meat or processed meat – not poultry or fish – per week was linked to a 3% higher risk of all causes of death.

There was a 4% higher risk of cardiovascular disease for people who ate two servings per week of poultry.

But researchers say the evidence is not sufficient to make a clear recommendation about poultry intake.

They suggest the apparent link could be related to the method of cooking the chicken and consumption of the skin rather than the chicken meat itself.

Scientists found no association between eating fish and cardiovascular disease or mortality.

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Researchers believe the results should encourage us to think twice before we chow down on the processed meat.

“These findings suggest that higher intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, or poultry, but not fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of incident CVD (cardiovascular disease), whereas higher intake of processed meat or unprocessed red meat, but not poultry or fish, was significantly associated with a small increased risk of all-cause mortality,” the study concludes.

“These findings have important public health implications and should warrant further investigations.”

Researchers hope the findings will encourage people to rethink their diets [Photo: Getty]

Commenting on the results senior study author Norrina Allen said: “It’s a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat.

“Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer,” she added.

Lead study author Victor Zhong, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell, added: “Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level.”

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The news follows further research last year which found that those who follow a vegan and vegetarian diet have a lower risk of heart disease, but a higher risk of stroke.

A study, by the University of Oxford, found 20% higher rates of stroke in vegetarians and vegans, than in meat eaters: the equivalent to three more cases of stroke per 1,000 people.

On the plus side, those following plant-based diets had 10 fewer cases of heart disease compared with their meat-eating counterparts.

The new research comes as it was revealed last year that unhealthy diets are responsible for 11 million preventable deaths globally per year.

The study, published in The Lancet, revealed people were eating too much of the wrong types of food and not enough of the healthier stuff.

Of the 11 million deaths attributed to poor diet, the largest killer was cardiovascular disease, which is often caused or worsened by obesity.

Strokes were another of the main diet-related causes of death, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes, researchers revealed.

What’s more the research found that eating and drinking better could prevent a whopping one in five deaths around the world.

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The research follows a further study released earlier this year revealing that meat consumption needs to be reduced to just 7g a day in order to save the planet and reduce premature deaths.

While research in 2018 found eating a diet high in red meat could increase levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a chemical generated in the gut and linked to a higher risk of heart disease.