Friday, March 08, 2013

Processed meat 'is to blame for one in 30 deaths': Big European study says more than a rasher of cheap bacon a day is harmful (?)

Same old same old.  The WCRF bods will be having orgasms over this but it is very poor data.  Self-report data needs lots of controls to be of any weight and neither social class nor social desirability responding were controlled for below. 

Education was controlled but it alone is not a good index of social class. For instance, many educated people do not even have jobs these days, let alone being rich.  And rich people often have poor education.  And there are other class variables.  Class can only convincingly be measured using several indices.  See here for an empirical study of the issues involved in class measurement.

Middle class people are more likely to "say the right thing" and they are healthier anyway.  One notes that the British sub-sample was described as "health conscious people", so they would know well what foods are "correct" according to conventional wisdom.  Regardless of what they actually did, they knew what to say!

And even if we take the data at face value, the correlation with mortality was marginal for processed meat and non-existent for red  meat.  A real storm in a teacup

And the study was a Europe-wide one so it would be interesting to see in which countries a statistically significant  correlation emerged.  My guess:  None of them!  Statistical significance is heavily dependent on sample size so the much smaller sample size for each nation would be unlikely to show significance, given the weak overall effect

Meals containing too much processed meat such as cheap ham [Dear ham is OK?], bacon and sausages could send you to an early grave, a large-scale study has found.

Analysis of the diets and medical history of almost half a million men and women linked processed meat to deaths from cancer and heart disease.

The Europe-wide research, including work by Oxbridge scientists, found that processed meat is to blame for about one in 30 deaths.

The researchers suggested a limit of no more than 20g a day of processed meat - equal to one rasher of cheap bacon.

The warning comes in the wake of the horsemeat scandal which has caused many consumers to question the origins of their food.

Processed meat, made by combining the leftover parts of animals which cannot be sold as good cuts such as steaks and joints, contains high concentrations of fat, including artery-clogging cholesterol.

The researchers from ten European countries quizzed almost 450,000 people, many of them Britons, and tracked their health for an average of 13 years.

They said: `Men and women with a high consumption of processed meat are at increased risk of early death, particularly due to cardiovascular diseases but also cancer.'

Some 26,344 of the participants died over the course of the study, with those who ate the biggest amounts of processed meat being 44 per cent more likely to have died than those who ate the lowest amounts.

The figures for heart disease were striking - those who ate the most processed meat, more than 160g or three sausages a day, were 72 per cent more likely to die of heart disease.

A study last year found that eating 50g of processed meat a day - the equivalent of one sausage or three rashers of bacon - raises the likelihood of cancer by a fifth.

But in the latest, much bigger study, those who ate the most processed meat were almost 50 per cent more likely to suffer an early death, with heart disease the overwhelming cause.

The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, concluded that a limit of 20g a day of processed meat - equal to a rasher of bacon or one full English breakfast a week - would prevent about 20,000 early deaths in the UK each year.

Tracy Parker, a dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: `With spring in the air, many of us may be looking forward to sunny barbecues. But this research suggests processed meat, such as sausages and burgers, may be linked to an increased risk of early death.

`However, the people who ate the most processed meat in this study also made other unhealthy lifestyle choices.  `They were found to eat less fruit and vegetables and were more likely to smoke, which may have had an impact on results.'

Professor Karol Sikora, one of Britain's leading cancer specialists and an unpaid member of the industry-backed Meat Advisory Panel, said the key to good health is a balanced diet. He said: `Don't worry about having a bacon sandwich. It is not going to kill you. But don't have four bacon sandwiches every day for your whole life.'

The amount of white meat eaten, such as chicken, was not linked to death rates by the researchers, while small amounts of red meat appeared beneficial.

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'It's important that everyone eats a balanced diet. Eating well and being active can help prevent serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease later in life.

'Red meat can be part of a balanced diet. But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down as regularly eating a lot could increase your risk of bowel cancer.

Meat consumption and mortality - results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition

By Sabine Rohrmann et al.



Recently, some US cohorts have shown a moderate association between red and processed meat consumption and mortality supporting the results of previous studies among vegetarians. The aim of this study was to examine the association of red meat, processed meat, and poultry consumption with risk of early death in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).


Included in the analysis were 448,568 men and women without prevalent cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction, and with complete information on diet, smoking, physical activity and body mass index, who were between 35 and 69 years old at baseline. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to examine the association of meat consumption with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.


Until June 2009, 26,344 deaths were observed. After multivariate adjustment, a high consumption of red meat was related to higher all-cause mortality (HR=1.14, 95% CI 1.01-1.28, 160+ vs. 10-19.9 g/day), and the association was stronger for processed meat (HR=1.44, 95% CI 1.24-1.66, 160+ vs. 10-19.9 g/day). After correction for measurement error, higher all-cause mortality remained significant only for processed meat (HR=1.18, 95% CI 1.11-1.25, per 50 g/d). We estimated that 3.3% (95% CI 1.5-5.0%) of deaths could be prevented if all participants had a processed meat consumption of less than 20 g per day. Significant associations with processed meat intake were observed for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and 'other causes of death'. The consumption of poultry was not related to all-cause mortality.


The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also cancer.



My prophecy about the WCRF has come true.  See here, where the BBC reports both unduly expansive and cautious conclusions from the research.  They even report that red meat is bad for you, when the research showed that it is NOT!  Could the BBC reporter not read what it says in the abstract above:  "After correction for measurement error, higher all-cause mortality remained significant only for processed meat".  Far from being reliable, it would seem that BBC reporters can't even read!

Exercise and sleep

The 6th paragraph below has the point I was going to make

On the heels of news that Canada's adult obesity rates have reached historic highs, a new study offers some extra incentive to hit the gym: a better night's sleep.

Researchers have discovered a "compelling association" between weekly physical activity and improved sleep quality - including reduced incidences of sleep apnea and insomnia - according to a report released Monday. The relationship is so strong, in fact, they say simply adding 10 minutes of walking to your day is likely to improve your Zs.

"There is a relationship there, and it's sequentially greater as people exercise more," said Max Hirshkowitz, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine and a sleep researcher with more than three decades in the field. "Really, it confirms what should be common sense."

In a study of 1,000 adults, ages 23 to 60, participants were categorized as either exercisers (with sub-groups for vigorous, moderate and light) or non-exercisers, based on self-reported activity levels.

Though length of slumber appeared unaffected by physical endeavours - both groups averaged six hours and 51 minutes on a weeknight - the quality of sleep proved vastly different. People who engaged in light, moderate or vigorous exercise reported consistently enjoying a good night's sleep at a rate of between 56 and 67%, while sedentary participants' rate was 39%.

Hirshkowitz cautioned, however, that "cause and effect can be tricky." Though he suspects the good health fostered by exercise leads to improved sleep, it's also possible that poor sleep makes people less inclined to exercise.

More than three-quarters of exercisers said their sleep quality over the past two weeks was either "very good" or "fairly good," compared to slightly more than one-half of non-exercisers.

Vigorous exercisers saw particularly positive results during that period: 72% "rarely" or "never" woke up too early and struggled to get back to sleep, and 69% "rarely" or "never" had trouble falling asleep. In the sedentary group, 50% woke up during the night and 24% had difficulty falling asleep every night or almost every night.

Non-exercisers were also more likely to have trouble: staying awake while driving, eating or engaging in social activity over the prior two weeks, reporting such incidences at almost three times the rate of exercisers - 14% vs. 4% to 6%.

In addition, 44% of the non-exercisers carried a moderate risk of sleep apnea - a condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep, vs. 26% for light exercisers, 22% for moderate exercisers and 19% for vigorous exercisers.

Finally, the study provides groundbreaking evidence that a desk job can wreak havoc on your nocturnal peace. Those people who spent less than eight hours per day sitting were significantly more likely to claim "very good" sleep quality than those who sat for eight hours or longer: 22% to 25% vs. 12% to 15%.

"People neglect to think of sleep as one of the fundamental building blocks of life. But without it, the good things lose their goodness and the bad things just get terribly worse," said Hirshkowitz. "Placing your life at the altar of the god of productivity just isn't worth it in the end."

The report - which also includes input from researchers at Arizona State University, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo and the University of South Carolina - is based on a poll by WB&A Market Research for the National Sleep Foundation. It's considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20


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