Processed meats and their health implications for dementia, ovarian cancer and hypertension in women

Written by Guest post on Wednesday, 14 July 2021.
Tagged: health, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, meat, nutrition, processing

Processed meats and their health implications for dementia, ovarian cancer and hypertension in women

Several studies into the different health impacts of cured meats such as bacon, ham and hot dogs raise some worrying questions, especially for women.

Cured meats and dementia

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that processed-meat consumption was a potential risk factor for dementia. The researchers looked at the incidence of dementia and the dietary intakes of meat (unprocessed and processed) of almost half a million people in the UK. They found that an intake of around 50g per day “of unprocessed red meat intake was associated with reduced risks of all-cause dementia”. So fresh beef, lamb, chicken, pork and kangaroo in smallish amounts is fine. 

However, the story was very different for processed meat intake. The study found that “Each additional 25 g/day intake of processed meat was associated with increased risks … of all-cause dementia” – 25g is small, being about two small strips of crispy bacon. 

Cured meats and ovarian cancer

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a meta-analysis of the results from two Australian case-control studies looking at the links between fish and meat consumption and the incidence of ovarian cancer. They found that “Although there was no association between total or red meat intake and ovarian cancer risk, women with the highest intake of processed meat had a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer ”. 

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They also found that “a frequent intake of poultry was associated with borderline significant reductions” in risk, while a high “fish intake was associated with a significantly reduced risk” of ovarian cancer. They concluded that their “results suggest that low consumption of processed meat and higher consumption of poultry and fish may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.” 

Cured meats and hypertension in women

A third study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at Processed and unprocessed red meat consumption and hypertension in women.  The object of the study was to evaluate the relationship between the consumption of unprocessed and processed red meat and hypertension (high blood pressure) in women. A cohort of almost 45,000 French women who were “disease free” were followed over a 15 year period. After adjusting for lifestyle and other dietary factors researchers concluded that while the consumption of unprocessed red meat had no impact on the incidence of hypertension there was an association between the consumption of processed red meat and hypertension.

The bottom line

We’ve written about cured meats previously and you can read about them here. However, these new reports which show increased risks of dementia, ovarian cancer and hypertension in women add greater weight to the view that cured meats are foods that women, especially, should eat sparingly.

Thanks to Munaiba Khan, a retired naturopath with an interest in nutrition, for writing this post