Reducing the consumption of processed meat or meat products has many health benefits, as emphasized by a team of nutritionists from the University of Edinburgh and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: reducing this consumption by about a third could prevent over 350,000 cases of diabetes in the United States over 10 years.

The researchers developed a microsimulation model to estimate the health impact of reducing the consumption of processed meat and unprocessed red meat. This initial modeling concludes that cutting back on 10 slices of bacon per week would be enough to avoid tens of thousands of cases of cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer.

Numerous studies have already described the association between high levels of consumption of these foods and chronic diseases, but few have evaluated the impact on multiple health outcomes.

The study uses data from a national health survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a simulated and representative sample of the population and estimate these effects with a reduction in consumption ranging from 5 to 100% and focusing on multiple health outcomes: risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, colorectal cancer, and death in adults. The analysis reveals that on a national scale in the United States:

– On average, the daily consumption of unprocessed red meat is 47g and processed meat is 29g;
– A 30% reduction in processed meat consumption allows for a decrease of 350,000 cases of diabetes, 92,500 cases of cardiovascular diseases, and 53,300 cases of colorectal cancer over 10 years;
– The greatest health benefits are observed for white men and individuals with moderate incomes;
– A 30% reduction in both processed meat and unprocessed red meat consumption leads to a decrease of 1,073,400 cases of diabetes, 382,400 cases of cardiovascular diseases, and 84,400 cases of colorectal cancer;
– A 30% reduction in unprocessed red meat consumption – equivalent to one less hamburger per week – results in over 732,000 fewer cases of diabetes, 291,500 fewer cases of cardiovascular diseases, and 32,200 fewer cases of colorectal cancer;
– Reducing unprocessed red meat consumption compared to processed meat leads to avoiding more cases of diseases, partly due to the higher average daily consumption of unprocessed red meat.

“Reducing meat consumption is already recommended by health organizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our research reveals that these dietary changes could also have significant health benefits in wealthy countries. It is clearly a win-win situation for humans and the planet.”