What's Lurking in Your Meat

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

If you eat hot dogs, sausages, or deli meat, your risk of heart attack jumps by 42 percent.1

But here’s what most people don’t know:

If you eat unprocessed meat, your risk doesn’t go up at all.

I just read a report about to be published in Circulation. Harvard scientists looked at 1,600 studies involving over 1.2 million people around the world. Listen to what they concluded:

“The consumption of processed meats, rather than red meats, was associated with increased incidence of coronary heart disease.”

So, you can go back to eating any meat from beef, lamb, or pork (the study didn’t include poultry).

It’s processed meat – things like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and lunch meat – that you’ve got to watch out for.

Processed meats contain chemicals, preservatives, and additives. Or they’re smoked, cured, or salted.

When you eat processed meat with additives, you get four times the sodium and twice as many nitrates. Salt drives up your blood pressure. Nitrates cause plaque to build up in your arteries.2

Smoked or cured meat like sausage and bologna also contains high levels of benzo (A) pyrene. This is the cancer-causing chemical in cigarette smoke.3

So, I suggest you make yourself a hamburger, pork chop, or juicy steak instead, without fear.

As usual, look for organic and grass-fed beef. Nitrates are barred from use in the processing of organic meat. The sodium content is also lower. And you avoid hormones and antibiotics.

To find grass-fed red meat that can be shipped right to your doorstep, click here.

Groceries like Whole Foods or Trader Joes who are dedicated to health also carry organic, grass-fed bacon, sausage, and lunch meat processed without nitrates or other chemicals.

Some stores will cook and slice organic chicken and grass-fed beef so you can make your own sandwich slices. Or slice your own at home.

Look for products that say nitrate-free or preservative-free.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

  1. Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Renata Micha, Sarah K. Wallace, Dariush Mozaffarian, Circulation, online May 17, 2010.
  2. Paikabc, DC., Wendel, TD., Freeman, HP. “Cured meat consumption and hypertension: an analysis from NHANES III (1988-94).” 2005; 25(12):1049-1060.
  3. Rhee, KS., Bratzler, LJ., “Benzo(A)Pyrene in Smoked Meat Products.”Journal of Food Science. 2006 Aug; 35(2):146-149.