Processed meats boost health risks

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Eating bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed meats can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that identifies the real bad boys of the meat counter.

Eating unprocessed beef, pork or lamb appeared not to raise risks of heart attacks and diabetes, they said, suggesting that salt and chemical preservatives may be the real cause of these two health problems associated with eating meat.

The study, an analysis of other research called a meta-analysis, did not look at high blood pressure or cancer, which are also linked with high meat consumption.

“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating,” said Renata Micha of the Harvard School of Public Health, whose study appears in the journal Circulation.

“Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid,” Micha said in a statement.

Based on her findings, she said people who eat one serving per week or less of processed meats have less of a risk.

The American Meat Institute objected to the findings, saying it was only one study and that it stands in contrast to other studies and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“At best, this hypothesis merits further study. It is certainly no reason for dietary changes,” James Hodges, president of the American Meat Institute, said in a statement.

Most dietary guidelines recommend eating less meat. Individual studies looking at relationships between eating meat and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes have had mixed results.

But studies rarely look for differences in risk between processed and unprocessed red meats, Micha said.

She and colleagues did a systematic review of nearly 1,600 studies from around the world looking for evidence of a link between eating processed and unprocessed red meat and the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

They defined processed meat as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Meats in this category included bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli or luncheon meats.

Unprocessed red meat included beef, lamb or pork but not poultry.

They found that on average, each 1.8 oz (50 grams) daily serving of processed meat a day — one to two slices of deli meats or one hot dog — was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes.

They found no higher heart or diabetes risk in people who ate only unprocessed red meats.

The team adjusted for a number of factors, including how much meat people ate. They said lifestyle factors were similar between those who ate processed and unprocessed meats.

“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol,” Micha said.

“In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, four times more sodium and 50 percent more nitrate preservatives,” Micha added.

Last month, the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt added to foods to help Americans cut their high sodium intake.

The FDA has not yet said whether it will regulate salt in foods, but it is looking at the issue.

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Dieting for workplace dollars

By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, Ap Medical Writer

ATLANTA — How much money would it take to get you to lose some serious weight? $100? $500?

Many employers are betting they can find your price. At least a third of U.S. companies offer financial incentives, or are planning to introduce them, to get their employees to lose weight or get healthier in other ways.

“There’s been an explosion of interest in this,” said Dr. Kevin Volpp, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Incentives.

Take OhioHealth, a hospital chain whose workforce is mostly overweight. The company last year embarked on a program that paid employees to wear pedometers and get paid for walking. The more they walk, the more they win — up to $500 a year.

Anecdotal success stories are everywhere. Half of the 9,000 employees at the chain’s five main hospitals signed up, more than $377,000 in rewards have already been paid out, and many workers tell of weight loss and a sudden need for slimmer clothes.

But does will this kind of effort really put a permanent dent in American’s seemingly intractable obesity problem? Not likely. [Read more...]

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The whole grain truth

In my business, I see a lot of diabetics or folks that just want to lose weight and want to know the best foods to eat. When it comes to grains, I always let them know that the less processed the better because whole grains provide more nutrients such as vitamins, minerals plus more fiber than ground grains. The following is an excellent article explaining the digestive benefits of whole grains — Lori

By Diana Mirkin
co-author of The Whole Grains Cookbook

When grains are processed into flour or cereals, the primary concern is loss of nutrients. However, if you grind your own grains or use products that are made from the whole grain without discarding anything, you get all or most of the nutrients of the original grain. But grains that have been broken apart in any way will be digested quicker. That’s a big disadvantage for diabetics and dieters.

Carbohydrates are long chains of sugars, and only single sugars can be absorbed from your intestines into your bloodstream. The foods that cause rapid rise in blood sugar are those that are digested most quickly; the worst offenders are sugar and anything made from flour.

When you eat whole grains (seeds), it takes a long time to break apart the capsule, separate the carbohydrates from the fiber, and completely digest each grain. Your blood sugar rises slowly, stays slightly elevated for a long time (so you don’t feel hungry again soon after eating) and never reaches the high levels that come from sugar or flour. [Read more...]

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Junk food alters gut bacteria in one day

What type of microbacteria are lurking in your gut? The following article by Dr. Gabe Mirkin of www.DrMirkin.com demonstrates amazing evidence that a diet consisting of high sugar, high fat and processed foods significantly affects our bacterial gut health. This could be one of the pieces of the puzzle in explaining the mystery of why many seekers of weight loss struggle to lose the pounds even when they eat less.

After just one day of switching from a plant-based diet to a high-fat-and-sugar diet, mice with human intestinal bacteria developed bacteria associated with obesity in humans, and soon became grossly obese (Science Translational Medicine, November 11, 2009)

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St Louis first showed that certain types of bacteria in the human intestinal tract can break down food more efficiently and help you absorb a greater percentage of calories from the food that you eat. He also showed that humans whose intestinal tracts are dominated by these bacteria tend to be overweight. [Read more...]

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