People who consume lots of processed meat run a greater risk of a premature death and are more likely to develop cancer and heart disease, according to a new study. But don't worry! Scientists still say you can eat meat—just no more than one tiny sausage a day.

A new study examining data from nearly 500,000 people living in 10 European countries discovered that consumers of processed meat (like ham, bacon, sausages, and burgers) are 44 percent more likely to die prematurely than people who eat little or none of the stuff. Processed meat consumption increased the risk of death from heart disease by 72 percent and cancer by 11 percent. They estimate one in thirty early deaths can be blamed on processed meats.

Though the study is new, the results fall in line with previous research on the subject. The World Cancer Research Fund came to similar conclusions regarding processed meats in 2007, and was disputed by the meat industry at the time.

Meats like bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami, and some sausages heighten the risk of bowel cancer. The study estimates that 4,100 fewer people in the UK would have the disease if they ate no more than 0.35 ounces a day.

This comes just a few weeks after it was discovered that a straight-up bacon sandwich is Britain's most popular snack. The study also revealed entertaining terms used by British people to describe various meat snacks: rasher (a strip of bacon), chipolata sausage (a "fresh" sausage), and bacon butty (the aforementioned straight-up bacon sandwich).

The University of Zurich researchers who published their findings in the BMC medicine journal aren't totally against consuming some good old, delicious red meat. The study even notes that there are some health benefits, like important nutrients and minerals, only available in red meats.

So what's the guideline here? Good thing the researchers also suggest a solution—they're not just dropping this information on you and clearing out. Professor Sabine Rohrmann estimates that if everyone ate no more than 0.7 ounces of meat a day, 3 percent of premature deaths could be avoided. To note, 0.7 ounces of meat is about:

  • a strip of bacon
  • a sausage the size of a baby carrot
  • a thin slice of ham
  • 1/5th of a burger


[The Guardian, image via Getty]