Daily portion of red or processed meat could lead to early death, say scientists

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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It’s enough to make you choke on your bacon buttie – scientists say that eating red meat could cut your life short.

US researchers have found that eating high amounts of red and processed meat can lead to an earlier death, particularly from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Not surprisingly, the Harvard Medical School findings have been questioned by the meat industry and some nutritionists, who say red meat is part of a healthy diet, and cutting it out could do more harm than good.

The Harvard research looked at the diets of more than 120,000 people over a period of up to 28 years, and concluded that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13 per cent increased risk of death, and one daily serving of processed red meat (two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20 per cent increased risk.

The results also show that substituting other healthy protein sources, such as fish, poultry and nuts, was linked to a lower risk of death.

But how do you know how much you’re eating?

The Department of Health now recommends eating no more than 70g of cooked red or processed meat a day.

Examples of a 70g portion of meat include:

· One medium portion of Shepherd’s Pie and a rasher of bacon

· Two standard beef burgers

· Six slices of salami

· One lamb chop

· Two slices of roast lamb, beef or pork

· Three slices of ham