Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Processed Meat May Play a Part in Early Death: Study

It found those who ate the most increased their risk of dying prematurely by 44 percent

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- Grilled hot dogs and sausages may be tasty treats at ball games and picnics, but a new study of nearly 450,000 people finds that eating too much processed meat might shave years off your life.

Those 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, Swiss researchers reported.

"Our recommendation is to limit processed meat intake to less than an ounce a day," said study author Sabine Rohrmann, head of the division of cancer epidemiology and prevention at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich.

The researchers could only show an association between eating processed meat and an increased risk of dying early, and not a cause-and-effect link. There are, however, some reasons to believe the association may be real, the scientists said.

"We know of some potential mechanisms that probably all contribute," Rohrmann said. "Meat is rich in cholesterol and saturated fat, which may be the link with coronary heart disease."

Processed meat is also treated with nitrates to improve durability, color and taste. "However, it also causes the formation of carcinogens. These are linked to the risk of colorectal and stomach cancer," Rohrmann said.

In addition, high iron intake from meat may lead to an increased risk for cancer, she said.

Another expert noted that previous research supports the link between processed meat and health problems.

"A wide array of studies have linked meat intake to higher rates of chronic disease," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.

Eating relatively more meat likely means eating fewer plant foods, which protect against chronic disease, he said.

"The case for us eating mostly plants is strong," Katz said. "But those inclined can eat meat without harming their health, provided they choose wisely and steer clear of bologna."

For the study, which was published online March 6 in the journal BMC Medicine, Rohrmann and an international team of investigators collected data on nearly 450,000 men and women. At the start of the study, none of the participants had had cancer, a heart attack or stroke. The researchers also collected data on diet, smoking, exercise and weight.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure