Harvard Heart Letter

From hot dogs to heart failure



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Men who eat processed red meats such as sausages and cold cuts may boost their risk of heart failure, say Swedish researchers reporting in the journal Circulation.

A large study examined the eating and health behaviors of over 37,000 middle-aged men for approximately 12 years. Over that period, the individuals who ate the highest quantities of processed meats—75 grams a day or more—were twice as likely to die from heart failure and had a 29% greater chance of developing the condition than those who consumed 25 grams or less daily. (An average serving of 2 ounces of roast beef deli meat equals about 57 grams.) However, no such difference was noted when comparing the heart failure rates of the highest and lowest consumers of unprocessed red meats (such as beef, pork, and hamburger).

The study does not imply that unprocessed red meats are good for cardiovascular health. But processed meats may be especially detrimental when it comes to heart failure risk. That's probably because these products contain high levels of sodium (which raises blood pressure), nitrates, and other additives.

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