Kenya: Study Finds Link Between Cardiovascular Disease and Meat Consumption

Eating processed meats--not unprocessed--has contributed to an increase in cardiovascular disease, a study has shown.

The determination was made following a decade-long study. Researchers tracked the diets and health outcomes of 134,297 people from 21 countries spanning five continents on meat consumption and cardiovascular illnesses.

The researchers found consumption of 150g or more of processed meat a week was associated with a 46 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 51 per cent higher risk of death than in unprocessed meat.

The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological study published on March 31 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consumption of unprocessed red meat and poultry was not associated with mortality or major cardiovascular disease events.

This was the first such multinational study exploring the association between unprocessed and processed meat intakes with health outcomes in low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

The researchers also found moderate levels of consumption of non-processed meats had a neutral effect on health.

"The totality of the available data indicates that consuming a modest amount of unprocessed meat as part of a healthy dietary pattern is unlikely to be harmful," said an investigator for the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, Mahshid Dehghan.

"Associations of Unprocessed and Processed Meat Intake with Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease in 21 countries (PURE): A Prospective Cohort Study, has helped rectify a major research gap, and helped us better understand the global health impact of meat and meat product consumption," said Dr Romaina Iqbal, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University in Karachi-Pakistan, and lead author of the study.

"Evidence of an association between meat intake and cardiovascular disease has been inconsistent."

Besides, earlier studies have come primarily from populations in North America and Europe, limiting their global applicability.

In order to conduct their research, the authors of this study worked with data from a long-term study launched in 2003 by Director of Population Health Research Institute, Canada, and Principal Investigator of the PURE study, Dr Salim Yusuf.

The authors believe that additional research may enhance current understanding of the relationship between meat consumption and health outcomes. For instance, it is not clear what study participants with lower meat intakes were eating instead, and if the quality of those foods differed between countries.

They think non-meat food substitutes may have implications in further interpreting the associations between meat consumption and health outcomes.

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