A new study links bacon and other processed meats to half of all heart disease-related deaths in the country.
The study, done by researchers at Tufts University, isn’t the first to look at how diet impacts your health. However, it is one of the first to look at the role specific dietary factors might play in either increasing or decreasing your risk of specific conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Lead study author Renata Micha and her team looked at 10 different food groups including fruit, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, nuts and seeds, processed meats, red meat, sugary drinks, salt, and salty foods. After examining both government data that looked at the 700,000 deaths in 2012 from heart disease, stroke, or diabetes, and a national survey that asked participants about their eating habits, she found that most people don’t eat enough of the recommended “good” foods while eating way too much of the “bad” foods. They also found that, combined, the 10 food groups contributed to about 45 percent of all deaths.
In particular, salt and salty foods were linked to around 10 percent of deaths. Americans are also eating too much bacon, bologna, and other processed meats and not eating enough nuts or seeds — that combination was linked to around 8 percent of deaths.
The study authors also included recommended amounts for each food, based both on amounts that have been found to be beneficial in previous studies as well as government guidelines.
Recommended amounts for the “good” foods include:
Fruits: 3 average-sized fruits daily
Vegetables: 2 cups cooked or 4 cups raw vegetables daily
Nuts/seeds: 5 1-ounce servings per week (20 nuts per serving)
Whole grains: 2 ½ daily servings
Polyunsaturated fats: 11 percent of daily calories
Seafood: 8 ounces weekly
For the “bad” foods:
Red meat: 1 serving weekly (one medium steak or the equivalent)
Processed meat: None recommended
Sugary drinks: None recommended
Salt: 2,000 milligrams daily (just under a teaspoon)
The study isn’t proof that your diet is trying to kill you, and if you generally follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you can probably keep on doing what you’re doing. However, it never hurts to up your intake of fruits and veggies and scale back on your consumption of meat a bit.