No statistical validity to European study linking processed meats to premature death

No statistical validity to European study linking processed meats to premature death

The findings of a European study that claims processed meat may be to blame for one in 30 premature deaths, is not statistically valid, according to The Meat Advisory Panel (MAP).

The new survey just published in BMC Medicine has looked at high intakes of processed meats. Processed meat includes salami, ham, bacon and meat pies, although not sausages and burgers which are defined as fresh meat.

The study, a snapshot of half a million adults living in Europe, also found that small amounts of unprocessed red meat were beneficial to health.

Commenting on the survey, Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietitian on the Meat Advisory Panel, notes: “There are two issues here; the first is whether the EPIC survey really tells us anything new about diet and mortality, and the second is identifying the healthiest way to eat red meat. The EPIC survey reported that the highest consumers of processed meat tended to smoke, drink large amounts of alcohol and had the lowest intakes of fruits and vegetables. While the researchers attempted to correct for this statistically, it is not possible to completely separate out the risks from these behaviours. This is why I have serious concerns about the usefulness of the EPIC survey for giving advice about diet and mortality. To do that, you need a controlled trial where all other factors, except processed meat intake, are kept constant.

“However, it is clear that there are healthier ways to enjoy the benefits of red meat. Processed meats are preserved using salt or nitrates, and can contain other ingredients, such as pastry, which add to our intakes of saturated fat. For these reasons, I would encourage people to eat processed meats in moderation and switch, instead, to lean red meat which is much lower in saturated fat and rich in nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc and selenium.”

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