The summer food that attacks your heart

In the heat of the summer, your heart works harder. But if you eat a popular summer food regularly, you run a higher risk that your heart will falter and fail.

A study at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden shows that if you frequently eat processed red meat products like hot dogs as well as cold cuts (salami and ham), bacon and sausage, you have a increased chance of suffering heart failure.

“Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk,” says researcher Alicja Wolk. “Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium.”

The research, part of what is called the Cohort of Swedish Men, involved 37,035 men 45-79 years old.

After about 12 years, the study showed:

  • Men consuming the most processed red meat endured a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure.
  • Men who ate the most processed red meat doubled their chances of death from heart failure during the study.
  • For each 50-gram (about 1-2 slices of ham) increase in daily consumption of processed meat, the risk of heart failure rose by 8 percent and the risk of death from heart failure went up 38 percent.

“To reduce your risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, we suggest avoiding processed red meat in your diet, and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less,” says researcher Joanna Kaluza. “Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and increase your servings of fish.”



Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.