Diet High in Processed Meats Could Shorten Your Life

Cara Murez wrote . . . . . . . . .

That piece of sausage you’re about to enjoy? You may want to put it down for something healthier.

New research found an association between eating even small amounts of processed meats, 150 grams (a little over 5 ounces) per week, and a higher risk of major heart disease and death.

But not all meat is bad: The study, which includes data from 21 countries, also found that eating up to 250 grams (just under 9 ounces) per week of unprocessed meat, even red meat, was neutral in terms of cardiovascular disease.

Why are processed meats, such as hot dogs, cold cuts and bacon, considered to be so unhealthy?

“We believe this might be the result of food preservatives, food additives and color because if you compare, cholesterol and saturated fat in unprocessed and also processed are very similar, the difference is in food additives and color and nitrate,” said study author Mahshid Dehghan, an investigator at the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Ontario, Canada.

Most past evidence on meat intake and health outcomes comes from studies that were done in North America, Europe and Japan. The amount and type of meat consumed in those areas differs from some other parts of the world, including South Asia and Africa, , according to the study.

Enter PURE, a long-term study that is tracking dietary habits and health outcomes of more than 164,000 people in countries that include those with low, middle and high incomes. The study launched in 2003. It uses food frequency questionnaires. Researchers also collected other health data.

In the study, unprocessed red meat was beef, lamb, veal and pork. Poultry included all birds. Processed meat was any meat that had been salted, cured or treated with food preservatives or additives.
The increased risk was incurred with even a small amount of processed meat, according to the study.

“I would say it’s about two servings per week. A medium-sized sausage is about 75 grams. Having two sausages per week is associated with this amount of increasing risk,” Dehghan said. “The message of our study is really limiting consumption, very limited amount of once in a while, not very frequent consumption.”

Despite the neutral finding on unprocessed meat, a news release sent with the study cautioned that red meat is a major source of medium- and long-chain saturated fatty acids, which may up the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The association between diet and disease isn’t linear, but is U-shaped, Dehghan said, with both insufficient and excessive amounts of certain foods being bad for you. Meat can be a good source of protein, iron and other essential nutrients, Dehghan explained, but consuming an excessive amount can add other risks.

The authors said more research is needed to improve understanding about meat consumption and health outcomes. For example, what participants with lower meat intake are eating instead may have an impact on health outcomes.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“When you look at comparing intake in countries who consume very little meat versus countries who do, it’s hard to draw conclusions,” said Connie Diekman, a food and nutrition consultant in St. Louis. “As a registered dietitian, my best message in looking at this study is let’s put this in with the bigger body of research where we know that the amount of meat we consume needs to be reduced versus the amount of plant foods.”

Diekman noted that limitations of the PURE study include that food frequency questionnaires can be inaccurate and that consumption varies a lot between countries.

“The study did point out when you look at those countries with higher consumption, you see more disease risk,” Diekman said.

Foods that contain higher amounts of saturated fats, including some meats, should be consumed in moderation and within an overall eating plan where there are a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, she said. The body of evidence suggests that people should limit consuming processed meats.

“The bottom line when we look at animal foods, whether we’re talking the raw meat, the processed meat, the dairy foods, the whole animal line, is we do have more saturated fat in those animal foods and they need to be consumed in moderate amounts,” Diekman said.

Source: HealthDay

High Glycemic Index Diet May Up Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Death

Diets with a high glycemic index are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and death, according to a study conducted on five continents published online Feb. 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues examined data from 137,851 participants between the ages of 35 and 70 years living on five continents to examine the association between glycemic index and cardiovascular disease. Dietary intake was determined using country-specific food-frequency questionnaires, and glycemic index and load were estimated based on consumption of seven categories of carbohydrates.

During a median follow-up of 9.5 years, there were 8,780 deaths and 8,252 major cardiovascular events. The researchers found that a diet with a high glycemic index was associated with an increased risk for a major cardiovascular event or death after performing adjustments comparing the lowest with the highest glycemic-index quintiles, both among those with and without preexisting cardiovascular disease (hazard ratios, 1.51 and 1.21, respectively). A high glycemic index was also associated with an elevated risk for death from cardiovascular causes. The results with respect to glycemic load were similar for participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline, but not for those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.

“I have been studying the impact of high glycemic diets for many decades, and this study ratifies that the consumption of high amounts of poor quality carbohydrates is an issue worldwide,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Diets high in poor quality carbohydrates are associated with reduced longevity, while diets rich in high quality carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, and legumes have beneficial effects.”

Source: HealthDay

Older Women Who Ate More Plant Protein Had Lower Risk of Premature, Dementia-related Death

Postmenopausal women who ate high levels of plant protein had lower risks of premature death, cardiovascular disease and dementia-related death compared with women who ate less plant proteins, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.

Previous research has shown an association between diets high in red meat and cardiovascular disease risk, yet the data is sparse and inconclusive about specific types of proteins, the study authors say.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from more than 100,000 postmenopausal women (ages 50 to 79) who participated in the national Women’s Health Initiative study between 1993 and 1998; they were followed through February 2017. At the time they enrolled in the study, participants completed questionnaires about their diet detailing how often they ate eggs, dairy, poultry, red meat, fish/shellfish and plant proteins such as tofu, nuts, beans and peas. During the study period, a total of 25,976 deaths occurred (6,993 deaths from cardiovascular disease; 7,516 deaths from cancer; and 2,734 deaths from dementia).

Researchers noted the levels and types of protein women reported consuming, divided them into groups to compare who ate the least and who ate the most of each protein. The median percent intake of total energy from animal protein in this population was 7.5% in the lowest quintile and 16.0% in the highest quintile. The median percent intake of total energy from plant protein in this population was 3.5% in the lowest quintile and 6.8% in the highest quintile.

Among the key findings:

  • Compared to postmenopausal women who had the least amount of plant protein intake, those with the highest amount of plant protein intake had a 9% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of dementia-related death.
  • Higher consumption of processed red meat was associated with a 20% higher risk of dying from dementia.
  • Higher consumption of unprocessed meat, eggs and dairy products was associated with a 12%, 24% and 11% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respectively.
  • Higher consumption of eggs was associated with a 10% higher risk of death due to cancer.
  • However, higher consumption of eggs was associated with a 14% lower risk of dying from dementia, while higher poultry consumption was associated with a 15% lower risk.

“It is unclear in our study why eggs were associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular and cancer death,” said lead study author Wei Bao, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “It might be related to the way people cook and eat eggs. Eggs can be boiled, scrambled, poached, baked, basted, fried, shirred, coddled or pickled or in combinations with other foods. In the United States, people usually eat eggs in the form of fried eggs and often with other foods such as bacon. Although we have carefully accounted for many potential confounding factors in the analysis, it is still difficult to completely tease out whether eggs, other foods usually consumed with eggs, or even non-dietary factors related to egg consumption, may lead to the increased risk of cardiovascular and cancer death.”

Researchers noted that substitution of total red meat, eggs or dairy products with nuts was associated with a 12% to 47% lower risk of death from all causes depending on the type of protein replaced with nuts.

“It is important to note that dietary proteins are not consumed in isolation, so the interpretation of these findings could be challenging and should be based on consideration of the overall diet including different cooking methods,” said Yangbo Sun, M.D., Ph.D., co-author of the study, a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and currently an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

The analysis also revealed that women who ate the highest amount of animal protein such as meat and dairy were more likely to be white and have a higher education and income, and they were more likely to be past smokers, drink more alcohol and be less physically active. Moreover, these women were more likely to have Type 2 diabetes at the start of the study, a family history of heart attacks and a higher body mass index — all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“Our findings support the need to consider dietary protein sources in future dietary guidelines,” said Bao. “Current dietary guidelines mainly focus on the total amount of protein, and our findings show that there may be different health influences associated with different types of protein foods.”

2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), recommend eating a variety of protein foods: low-fat meat, low-fat poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week.

The AHA’s 2020 Dietary Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Risk advisory notes that given the relatively high content of cholesterol in egg yolks, it remains advisable to limit intake. Healthy individuals can include up to one whole egg or the equivalent daily.

The study had several limitations including that it was observational, based on self-reported data at the beginning of the study and lacked data on how the proteins were cooked. In addition, the findings may not apply to younger women or men.

Source: American Heart Association

COVID-19 Death Risk is 3.5 Times That of Influenza

The risk of death from COVID-19 is more than triple that from seasonal flu, researchers in Canada say.

Their findings are similar to recent studies from the United States and France. The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“We can now say definitively that COVID-19 is much more severe than seasonal influenza,” said study author Dr. Amol Verma, a researcher in the School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

“Patients admitted to hospital in Ontario with COVID-19 had a 3.5 times greater risk of death, 1.5 times greater use of the ICU, and 1.5 times longer hospital stays than patients admitted with influenza,” he said in a journal news release. These patients were also more likely to be put on a ventilator.

Verma’s team compared flu- and COVID-related hospitalizations between Nov. 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020 at seven hospitals in Toronto and nearby Mississauga. Both have large populations and high COVID infection rates.

During the study period, there were 783 hospitalizations for flu in 763 patients, and 1,027 hospitalizations for COVID in 972 patients. That represented nearly a quarter of all COVID hospitalizations in the entire province of Ontario during that time.

About 1 in 5 COVID patients was younger than 50, and that age group accounted for nearly 1 in 4 intensive care admissions.

While many people believe COVID-19 mainly affects older people, “it can also cause very serious illness in younger adults,” Verma said.

He noted that adults under age 50 accounted for 20% of COVID hospitalizations in the first wave of the pandemic. Nearly 1 in 3 adults under 50 required intensive care and nearly 1 in 10 had to be readmitted to the hospital after they were discharged, according to the study.

It is true, Verma added, that COVID hits older adults the hardest.

“We found that among adults over 75 years who were hospitalized with COVID-19, nearly 40% died in hospital,” he said.

Researchers said COVID might be much more dangerous than flu because people have lower levels of immunity to the new coronavirus than to seasonal flu. Past flu infections and vaccinations have helped people build immunity to the illness.

“Hopefully, the severity of COVID-19 will decrease over time as people are vaccinated against the virus and more effective treatments are identified. There is, unfortunately, also the possibility that variants of the virus could be even more severe,” Verma said.

Source: HealthDay

Instant Death from Heart Attack More Common in People Who Do Not Exercise

An active lifestyle is linked with a lower chance of dying immediately from a heart attack, according to a study published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and prevention is a major public health priority. The beneficial impact of physical activity in stopping heart disease and sudden death on a population level is well documented. This study focused on the effect of an active versus sedentary lifestyle on the immediate course of a heart attack – an area with little information.

The researchers used data from 10 European observational cohorts including healthy participants with a baseline assessment of physical activity who had a heart attack during follow-up – a total of 28,140 individuals. Participants were categorised according to their weekly level of leisure-time physical activity as sedentary, low, moderate, or high.

The association between activity level and the risk of death due to a heart attack (instantly and within 28 days) was analysed in each cohort separately and then the results were pooled. The analyses were adjusted for age, sex, diabetes, blood pressure, family history of heart disease, smoking, body mass index, blood cholesterol, alcohol consumption, and socioeconomic status.

A total of 4,976 (17.7%) participants died within 28 days of their heart attack – of these, 3,101 (62.3%) died instantly. Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a lower risk of instant and 28-day fatal heart attack, seemingly in a dose–response-like manner. Patients who had engaged in moderate and high levels of leisure-time physical activity had a 33% and 45% lower risk of instant death compared to sedentary individuals. At 28 days these numbers were 36% and 28%, respectively. The relationship with low activity did not reach statistical significance.

Study author Dr. Kim Wadt Hansen of Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark said: “Almost 18% of patients with a heart attack died within 28 days, substantiating the severity of this condition. We found an immediate survival benefit of prior physical activity in the setting of a heart attack, a benefit which seemed preserved at 28 days.”

He noted: “Based on our analyses, even a low amount of leisure-time physical activity may in fact be beneficial against fatal heart attacks, but statistical uncertainty precludes us from drawing any firm conclusions on that point.”

The authors said in the paper: “Our pooled analysis provides strong support for the recommendations on weekly physical activity in healthy adults stated in the 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice;2 especially as we used cut-off values for physical activity comparable to those used in the guidelines.”

The guidelines recommend that healthy adults of all ages perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination thereof.

Dr. Hansen concluded: “There are many ways to be physically active at little or no cost. Our study provides yet more evidence for the rewards of exercise.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology