EATING chicken just twice a week increases your risk of heart disease, a major study claims.
And the bad news doesn’t stop there. Scoffing two portions of processed meat – think hot dogs, ham and salami – a week, means you’re more likely to die young.
People who gorge on two bacon sarnies a week raise their heart disease risk by seven per cent.
Scientists from Northwestern and Cornell universities analysed the diets of nearly 30,000 adults.
They found fans of processed meat were at greatest risk of heart troubles over the next two decades.
It dropped slightly for those consuming poultry or red meat twice weekly – such as chicken, steak or pork chops.
Risk of early death
Red meat eaters were also three per cent more likely to die young.
But there was no raised risk for those enjoying fish.
It suggests swapping out meat for salmon, cod or tuna could protect the heart.
Researcher Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “It’s a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni, bologna and deli meats.
“Red meat consumption also is consistently linked to other health problems like cancer.”
Second biggest killer
The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Heart disease is the second biggest killer in the UK, with 7.4 million Brits living with heart or circulatory problems.
Lead researcher Victor Zhong, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, said too much meat is bad for the heart.
He said: “Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level.”
The signs of heart disease
HEART disease is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK – and the world.
About one in four people in Western countries die of heart disease, so it’s important you learn the key signs.
Professor David Newby, from the British Heart Foundation, says there are 11 symptoms you need to take seriously…
- Chest pain – if you have chest pain and you feel extremely unwell, you should dial 999 and get an ambulance as soon as possible.
- Feeling sick – not every bout of nausea could mean a heart attack – but if it’s accompanied with pain then warning bells should be going off.
- Stomach pain – it may feel a little like indigestion, but sometimes that ache could be the early signs of a heart attack.
- Feeling sweaty – feeling hot and clammy along with chest pains is a sign that you should call an ambulance.
- Leg pain – if you get a gripping, cramping sensation in your calves when you are walking, it might be worth seeing your doctor, as that can be a marker of PAD (peripheral arterial disease).
- Arm pain – if the pain is going down the arm, especially on the left side, or it goes into the neck, that means it’s more likely to be heart-related than indigestion.
- Jaw or back pain – the pain can be in other unusual places like the jaw or back.
- Choking sensation – sometimes the pain can be felt up in the throat and people tend to describe it as a choking sensation.
- Swollen ankles – it can be a marker of heart failure, but it is also very common and has lots of other causes.
- Extreme fatigue – if you start experiencing extreme tiredness and your lifestyle hasn’t changed, it’s a good idea to chat to your GP.
- Irregular heartbeat – if it’s going very fast and jumping around erratically then it’s probably time to see your GP.
Experts said adults should aim to eat more seafood, nuts and beans.
The latest findings come after a report last year concluded cutting back on processed and red meat has little to no impact in relation to health.
Brits scoff an average three or four portions a week, with Public Health England suggesting we “eat less”.
The NHS advises Brits to limit red meat consumption to 70g daily – a palm-sized steak.
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UK experts said people should not be overly alarmed by the study.
Gunter Kuhnle, Professor of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Reading, said: “It is important to keep in mind the red and processed meat are not only associated with an increased risk of heart disease, but also of cancer.
“However, the increase in absolute risk is so small that it is unlikely to be relevant for the individual – there is no need to stop eating meat.”