Sausage Link? Heart-Failure Risk Higher with Processed Meats

June 12, 2014

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — The risk of both incident heart failure and HF mortality went up significantly over 12 years with rising intake of processed red meats such as sausages, cold cuts, and ham, among participants in the Cohort of Swedish Men , already considered to be consuming them at low to moderate levels[1]. The elevated risks were independent of CV disease risk factors, MI history, calorie consumption, and intake levels of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish.

The risk of new heart failure and of death from heart failure went up by a significant 8% and 38%, respectively, for every 50-g rise in daily processed-meat intake, report Dr Joanna Kaluza (Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland) and colleagues today in Circulation: Heart Failure.

Trends that were both similar and significant were seen for total red-meat consumption, but the risk increases were much less pronounced, especially for incident HF. And, importantly, no such significant trends in risk were seen for consumption of unprocessed red meats such as whole-cut or ground pork, beef, or veal. Dietary intake levels were self-reported.

The findings are consistent with other studies associating processed red-meat consumption and "risk of other cardiovascular diseases and cancer and provide further support to the recommendation to limit consumption of processed red meat," they write.

An earlier analysis based on the same Swedish cohort saw a 23% increased risk of any stroke (p=0.004) and an 18% higher risk of cerebral infarction (p=0.03) over 10 years among men consuming processed meat at the highest vs lowest levels, as reported in 2011 by heartwire .

The current analysis looked at 37 035 men who entered the cohort at age 45 to 79 years with no history of heart failure or ischemic heart disease at baseline, who were followed for a mean of 11.8 years.

Hazard Ratios* (HR, 95% CIs) for Heart Failure Incidence and HF Mortality Over a Mean 12 Years by Processed-Red-Meat-Consumption Levels in the Cohort of Swedish Men Study

End points 25–49.9 g/d 50–74.9 g/d > 75 g/d p for trend
Incident HF 1.09 (1.00–1.19) 1.09 (0.97–1.23) 1.28 (1.10–1.48) 0.01
HF mortality 1.22 (0.91–1.63) 1.42 (0.97–2.07) 2.43 (1.52–3.88) <0.001
HR reference: <25 g
*Adjusted for age, education, smoking, body-mass index, total physical activity, aspirin use, supplement use, family history of MI at aged <60 years, daily kcal intake, and consumption levels for alcohol, whole-grain products, fruit, vegetables, and fish

"The potential adverse effect of processed red meat on heart failure may be a result of sodium content and food additives" such as nitrates, used as a preservative, and of chemical byproducts from the curing process, which can include smoking, observe the authors.

That HF risks went up significantly with greater processed-meat intake but not with consumption of unprocessed meat is consistent with an analysis from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, reported last year by heartwire . It saw increases of >70% in CV death, 43% for cancer death, and 18% for all-cause mortality over 12 years among adults with the highest vs lowest processed-red-meat-consumption levels.

The Cohort of Swedish Men was supported by the Swedish Research Council/Medicine and the Swedish Research Council/Infrastructure. The authors had no disclosures.

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