Processed meat: Delicious but deadly

Shutterstock / Slavica StajicProcessed meat: Delicious but deadly.

Hot on the heels of the horse-meat scandal, here’s more bummer meat news.

Eating more than 0.7 ounces a day of processed meat — salami, cured bacon, sausages, that kind of thing — will make you more likely to die prematurely, killed by a heart attack or cancer.

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That’s the conclusion of a new study published in BMC Medicine. Scientists tracked almost a half million people in 10 European countries and concluded that 3 percent of premature deaths could be avoided if everybody ate less than three-quarters of an ounce of processed meat every day.

It’s not just the fat in the processed meat that kills: The researchers say it’s the chemicals and salt used to preserve it.

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Meat eaters who down 5.5 ounces of processed meat every day — roughly two sausages and a piece of bacon — were 44 percent more likely to die during the 13-year study than those eating just 0.7 ounces, the BBC reported.

But meat eaters with otherwise healthy lifestyles shouldn’t panic too much about that 44 percent figure. BBC noted:

[P]eople who munched on a lot of processed meat were also more likely to smoke, be obese and have other behaviours which are known to damage health.

However, the researchers said that even after those risk factors were accounted for, processed meat still damaged health.

Say you decide to limit your processed meat intake to bacon. How much bacon could you eat to keep within the 0.7-ounce limit? One small rasher. That’s it! One small strip of bacon every day. No more ham, salami, or pastrami. Just one small rasher of bacon.

“I’d say it’s fine to eat bacon and sausages,” University of Zurich epidemiology professor Sabine Rohrmann, the study’s lead researcher, told NPR. “But not in high amounts and not every day.”