This research was the first of its kind and examined the effects of processed meat and unprocessed meat on 37,035 men between the ages of 45 and 79. These men had no history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease or cancer and were asked to complete a questionnaire about their food intake and other lifestyle factors.
The researchers tracked them from 1998 to the date when they were either diagnosed with heart failure, passed away or made it to the end of the study in 2010. After 12 long years it was observed that 2891 men were diagnosed with heart failure and 266 of them passed away.
It is known that processed meats are preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. "Processed red meat contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives. Smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Together all of these may contribute to an increased risk of heart failure" said Alicja Wolk, a professor from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
She added, "However, unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium."
According to the research, as consumption of processed red meats goes up, so does the risk of heart failure as the heart is unable to pump blood as well as it should. Men who eat roughly 2 - 3 slices of ham or 6 ounces of processed red meat a day have a 28 percent higher chance of heart failure and more than twice the risk of death from heart failure in comparison to men who eat less than one ounce of processed meat daily.'
Joanna Kaluza, an assistant professor at Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland explained "To reduce the risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases we suggest that people avoid processed red meat and limit the amount of unprocessed red meat to one or two servings per week."
To conclude, researchers said that those who eat meat should choose lean meats and poultry without the skin. They should also eat fish at least twice a week and preferably fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, trout and herring.