Heart Disease and Diabetes from Processed Meats

Eating unprocessed beef, pork or lamb appeared not to raise risks of heart attacks and diabetes, they said, suggesting that salt and chemical preservatives may be the real cause of these two health problems associated with eating meat.

The study, an analysis of other research called a meta-analysis, did not look at high blood pressure or cancer, which are also linked with high meat consumption.

"To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating," said Renata Micha of the Harvard School of Public Health, whose study appears in the journal Circulation.

"Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid," Micha said in a statement.

Based on her findings, she said people who eat one serving per week or less of processed meats have less of a risk.

The American Meat Institute objected to the findings, saying it was only one study and that it stands in contrast to other studies and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Most dietary guidelines recommend eating less meat. Individual studies looking at relationships between eating meat and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes have had mixed results.

But studies rarely look for differences in risk between processed and unprocessed red meats, Micha said.

She and colleagues did a systematic review of nearly 1,600 studies from around the world looking for evidence of a link between eating processed and unprocessed red meat and the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

They defined processed meat as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Meats in this category included bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli or luncheon meats.

Unprocessed red meat included beef, lamb or pork but not poultry.

They found that on average, each 1.8 oz (50 grams) daily serving of processed meat a day -- one to two slices of deli meats or one hot dog -- was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes.

They found no higher heart or diabetes risk in people who ate only unprocessed red meats.

The team adjusted for a number of factors, including how much meat people ate. They said lifestyle factors were similar between those who ate processed and unprocessed meats.

By Julie Steenhuyse
Editing by Eric Walsh

Study Excessive Cell Phone Calls May Cause Brain Cancer

The largest study to date on the potential health effects of mobile phone use concludes that the devices do not increase the risk of brain cancer among average cell phone users. But it finds a slightly greater risk of cancer among heavy users.

The massive international research project, conducted by the World Health Organization's Interphone Study Group, surveyed more than 13,000 mobile phone users in 13 countries over the past decade. Overall, members of the panel concluded that radio-frequency energy emitted by mobile phones does not increase the risk of the two main types of brain tumors, glioma and meningioma.

However, when researchers looked at the 10 percent of subjects who identified themselves as heavy users, they found a 40 percent increased risk of glioma. Heavy users included those who talked on a mobile phone for at least a-half hour a day, seven days a week, for ten years.

But panel member Daniel Kewski, of the Center for Population Health Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa in Canada, says the group was unable to prove that heavy mobile phone use increased the risk of cancer because the findings were based on the sketchy memories of some participants.

"If we asked you to be a participant, we would sit down with you and ask you to try and remember every cell phone that you had used in your entire life," said Daniel Kewski. "And then we would ask you how many times a day you made phone calls, and how long you were on the phone for each of those calls on average. So your recall of your cell phone utilization patterns may not be perfect."

Kewski says the remaining 90 percent of mobile phone users were on the device an average of two to two-and-a-half hours per month.

Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, says there is little evidence that even heavy cell phone use causes a significant increase in brain cancer. And if it did, says Brawley, the problem would be dwarfed by other more serious public health concerns:

"If you use the worst case studies that we have to date, it's about 300 additional brain tumors per year in the United States," said Otis Brawley. "Compare that with the fact that we have definite data to show that 3,000 deaths are caused by auto accidents due to cell phones in the United States every year."

Panel member Jack Siemiatycki, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the University of Montreal agrees, saying there is no reason for unnecessary panic or concern among average cell phone users.

"For people who are heavy duty users, who really do use 1,000 minutes a month or 2,000 minutes a month, or something like that, then you are getting into a zone where we may have seen a risk," said Jack Siemiatycki.

In that case, Siemiatycki says, users should consider operating their mobile phones without holding them to their ears by using wired earplugs or by using a wireless Bluetooth device, which emits less radio frequency energy than the mobile phone's electronics.

Christopher Wild is director for the International Agency for Research on Cancer based in Geneva:

Wild says the Interphone Study Group will convene a meeting next year to review data from all studies that have been conducted looking at cell phone use to see whether the devices increase the risk of brain cancer among heavy users.

"We need to look in more depth at that finding in the context of all the other information that's available to us before we are confident to conclude that there's no associated risk," said Christopher Wild.

The paper by the Interphone Study Group on mobile phone use and the risk of brain cancer was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

by Jessica Berman