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Hot Dogs, Salami May Raise Men's Heart Failure Risk

But unprocessed red meat was not implicated in this research

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Overall, nearly 2,900 men were diagnosed with heart failure and 266 died from the condition.

The risk associated with heart failure appeared to rise 8 percent with every 1.7 ounces of processed red meat eaten daily, while the risk of dying from heart failure jumped 38 percent for each increase, the investigators found.

The researchers said they expect to find similar results in a study of women.

A group representing the meat industry disputed the findings.

"Heart failure and cardiovascular diseases are complex conditions that appear to have a variety of factors associated with them, from genetics to lifestyle," said Betsy Booren, vice president of scientific affairs at the American Meat Institute Foundation. "Attempts to link heart failure to a single type of food oversimplifies this complex disease," she said.

Booren believes the study makes other "questionable assumptions."

She said, "The data is based off a single food frequency questionnaire given at the start of a 12-year period and assumes this reflects a person's diet over the entirety of the study period. The researchers themselves note that the questionnaire is only 38 percent accurate."

Booren also believes that it is tough to point to cause-and-effect in such a study, which "struggles to disentangle other lifestyle and dietary habits from meat and processed meat consumption."

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, who had no part in the study, agreed that the design of the study isn't suitable "for definitive assertions about cause and effect. But the implication of processed meat intake in the risk for heart failure is consistent with the overall weight of the evidence," he said.

Fonarow said prior studies have also linked consumption of processed red meat with increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

In a 2013 study published in BMC Medicine, Swiss researchers found that people who ate the most processed meat increased their risk of dying early by 44 percent. In broader terms, if people ate less processed meat, the number of premature deaths overall would drop by almost 3 percent.

Like the current study, that research only showed an association between eating processed meat and an increased risk of dying early, and not a cause-and-effect link.

Katz said that people who eat meat, but do so selectively, are the exception rather than the norm.

"Most people who eat meat include processed meats, such as deli meats and sausage, in the mix," he said. "Avoiding processed meat can be quite challenging, since even [healthy-sounding] options such as sliced turkey or roast chicken may be subject to infusions of solutions containing both salt and sugar."

The American Heart Association recommends eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts, and limiting red meat and sugary foods and drinks.

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