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Eating processed red meat boosts risk of dying young, Harvard study finds

Eating a portion of red meat daily can increase a person's risk of dying young by up to 20 percent, according to a US study.

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Robert Laurenzo places sausages in the display of the meat department at Laurenzo's Italian Center on January 9, 2012 in North Miami Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty Images)

Eating a portion of red meat daily can increase a person's risk of dying young by up to 20 percent, especially if the meat is processed, according to a US study.

The Boston Globe, meantime, cited a second study linking sugary beverages to a higher rate of heart disease.

In the first study, Harvard University researchers used data tracking more than 120,000 people over a period of 28 years to conclude that the risk of developing heart disease, cancer and other life threatening illnesses increases "in step" with red-meat consumption, CNN reported

The study — published in the Archives of Internal Medicine — also counsels that substituting fish and poultry may lower the early death risk.

"This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death," Agence France-Presse quotes Frank Hu, senior author of the study, as saying.

Subjects of the study were asked about their eating habits every four years:

Those who ate a card-deck-sized serving of unprocessed red meat each day on average saw a 13 percent higher risk of dying than those who did not eat red meat as frequently.

If the red meat was processed, such as in a hot dog or bacon form, the risk jumped to 20 percent.

Processed red meat can contain saturated fat, sodium, nitrites and some carcinogens linked to many chronic ailments, AFP wrote.

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Substituting nuts for red meat, meantime, lowered total mortality risk by 19 percent, poultry and whole grains by 14 percent and fish by 7 percent.

If everyone in the study had slashed their average red-meat intake to less than half a serving per day, the researchers say, 9 percent of deaths among men and 8 percent of deaths among women could have been prevented.

The second study, published in the journal Circulation, examined the dietary habits of 43,000 male health professionals and found that those who consumed more than six servings a day of sugar-sweetened soda, fruit juice, and sports drinks had a 20 percent greater risk of having a heart attack over 22 years than those who rarely drank them or drank low-calorie, artificially-sweetened drinks.

Linking the two studies together, Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health that conducted them, told the Boston Globe: "That Happy Meal choice of a hamburger with a Coke is quadruply bad for your health."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120312/red-meat-risks-health-mortality-harvard-heart-disease-sausages-cancer