Sausage is Unhealthy: The Less, The Better

Those who eat a lot of processed meat die earlier. Scientists have proven this in studies. Why is that? And what healthy alternatives are there to sausage?

Even if more and more people in Germany are eating vegetarian or even vegan food, the consumption of meat products such as sausage and ham is enormous at 27.3 kilograms per capita in this country in 2020. On average, that’s 75 grams of processed meat per day, but the average is misleading: As more and more people give up meat altogether (12 percent in 2021) or have at least drastically reduced their meat consumption (55 percent), the remaining third of the Consumers still significantly higher amounts. And since young women and men under 30 in particular do not eat meat, this affects older consumers all the more. For them, sausages are an integral part of dinner. It has been proven since 2009 that processed meat can cause cancer. Further evidence of this was provided in later studies in 2010 and 2011.

All meat products that have been modified by processes such as salting, smoking, maturing, or fermenting are considered processed meat. These include, for example, ham and sausages.

Study: Those who eat a lot of sausages die earlier

Scientists from Harvard University found out in 2012 that people who eat a lot of processed meat die earlier. For their study, the researchers analyzed the diets of 37,698 men and 83,644 women over a period of up to 26 years. Although cardiovascular disease and cancer had been ruled out in all subjects beforehand, nearly 6,000 participants died from cardiovascular disease and more than 9,000 from cancer.

The results were clear:

  • Eating a serving of red meat every day increases your risk of death by 13 percent.
  • Those who eat processed meat every day even increase the risk of death by 20 percent.

The effect depends on the dose:

  • With every 50 grams more processed meat per day, the risk increases further.
  • Study participants who replaced a meat dish with other proteins such as fish, dairy products, or legumes reduced their mortality rate.

Statistically, nearly 17 percent of study participants could have prevented their death from cardiovascular disease or cancer if they had reduced their consumption of processed red meat. A meta-analysis of global diet and disease data from 2022 also concludes that there are major health benefits when people eat less red and processed meat.

Processed meat: Studies show risk

In the meantime, numerous international studies have confirmed the results and proven in many cases that the consumption of processed meat is unhealthy. Time and again it has been shown that consumption increases the incidence of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as well as diabetes.

An analysis of almost 1,600 studies by researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health showed that 50 grams of processed meat per day increase the risk of heart disease by up to 42 percent and the likelihood of diabetes by around 19 percent.

In the case of colon cancer, in particular, the connection has been proven so clearly that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meat in the same risk category as tobacco, asbestos, and alcohol – as “carcinogenic in humans”. The risk of stomach cancer, and breast and lung cancer also increases with high sausage consumption.

Why does processed meat make you sick?

It has not yet been conclusively researched why processed meat makes you ill, what exactly is the decisive factor or whether several unhealthy properties interact. Three guesses:

  • Curing or smoking produces carcinogenic substances such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are also formed during intense heating such as frying, grilling, or frying, and aromatic amines are also formed here, which are considered to be possibly carcinogenic.

Sausage contains a lot of saturated fatty acids, which probably have an unfavorable effect on blood lipids in combination with carbohydrates. This increases the risk of arteriosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and other vascular diseases.

How much sausage to eat?

So far, the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) advises adults who eat meat products to eat no more than 300g of meat and sausage products per week, with high-calorie requirements of a maximum of 600g per week, for example, 3 portions of meat of 150g and 3 portions 30 g sausage. Another rule of thumb for the maximum amount is 20 grams of sausages per day. That’s roughly the equivalent of a thin slice of ham.

How healthy are the alternatives to sausage?

Instead of sausage and ham, cheese is often used for dinner. In fact, compared to processed meat, dairy products are considered less harmful, but in moderation. It shouldn’t be more than 50 grams. It also depends on the cheese preparation. For example, cottage cheese is considered healthier than sliced cheese.

 

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