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Choose Your Meat Wisely - Your Heart Will Thank You

A number of past studies have found that eating meat may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. However, a new meta-analysis by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health has found that the kind of meat you eat may make all the difference.

The researchers published their findings in the May 2010 issue of the journal Circulation.

After reviewing nearly 1,600 separate studies, they found that eating processed meat significantly increased the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. On the other hand, they observed no increase in diabetes and heart disease risk when participants consumed unprocessed meats.

Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting or by the addition of chemical preservatives. This includes bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed luncheon meats. Unprocessed meat included beef, lamb and pork.

The researchers found that every 1.8 oz of processed meat consumed a day resulted in a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes. That is just 1-2 slices of deli meat a day or a single hot dog.

Processed and unprocessed meats have similar levels of cholesterol and saturated fats, leading the researchers to note that these findings are likely due to the high level of nitrites and sodium in processed meats.

Processed meats contain, on average, four times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives than unprocessed meat.

These findings are extremely timely due to the fact that just last month the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start regulating the amount of salt added to foods.

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