The American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) said that processed meat continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and that nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence - not on a study that stands in contrast to other research and to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. AMIF issued the statement in response to a study in the journal Circulation.
AMIF President James H. Hodges noted that this is an epidemiological study, which by itself is not sufficient to establish cause and effect. Rather, this type of study allows researchers to identify associations that may merit further study. Even the authors of the study state in the paper that "Associations of processed meat consumption with diabetes mellitus or CHD could relate to generally less healthy diet or lifestyle rather than causal effects of processed meats."
Too often, epidemiological findings are reported as ‘cased closed' findings, as if a researcher has discovered the definitive cause of a disease or illness. Hodges also noted that epidemiological studies use "odds ratios" to estimate the strength of an association between the disease and the risk potential of a measured variable, such as a specific food or lifestyle choice. Major sources of nitrite in diet ignored
It is noteworthy that while the authors speculate that sodium in processed meats may be problematic, there are many foods higher in sodium that are more commonly consumed. In fact, in a ham sandwich, bread and condiments contribute more sodium than the ham.
Suggesting that nitrite in cured meats is a risk factor ignores the major sources of nitrite in the diet. Less than five percent of human nitrite intake is from cured meats. Ninety-three percent is from leafy green and root vegetables like spinach, beets, celery and lettuce, which contain nitrate that is converted to nitrite in human saliva and swallowed. Furthermore, nitrite in cured meats prevents the outgrowth of Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that while the researchers speculate that nitrite in some cured processed meats could be problematic, the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is researching nitrite's health benefits.
Source: AMI - American Meat Institute