Processed meat appears to be a mainstay of the American diet.
A new study published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has revealed Americans are eating as much processed meat as they did nearly two decades ago — despite it being linked with higher risks of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
The study, which was published Friday, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which identified different types of meat consumption from 43,995 U.S. adults, 20 years and older, between 1999 and 2016.
Processed meat, which includes red meat and poultry “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or with the addition of chemical preservatives,” was found to have been consumed more by Americans than unprocessed red meat and fish or shellfish.
The top processed meats consumed were luncheon meat at 39 percent, sausage at 24 percent, hot dogs and ham both at 9 percent, and bacon at 5 percent. Most of those purchased were are stores and fast-food restaurants, the study revealed.
Poultry consumption was also up, surpassing unprocessed red meat for the first time. Fish and shellfish consumption did not change during the course of the study.
“Despite strong evidence linking processed meat with cancer risk, consumption of processed meat among US adults didn’t change over the study period (1999-2016),” said lead investigator Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA. “While factors other than health (e.g., social, cultural, and economic) can influence Americans’ food choices, the lack of widespread awareness of health risks associated with processed meat may have contributed to the lack of consumption change in the past 18 years.”
According to a press release about the study, the researchers are hopeful their findings will help educate those about the health risks associated with processed meat and “inform public health policy priorities.”
The World Health Organization has linked meat-based diets to an increase of colorectal cancer in the past. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of WHO, classified red meat – including beef, lamb and pork – as a “probable” carcinogen in its group 2A list back in 2015.