But, many experts said, people do not need to eliminate processed meat completely from their diet. Instead, some experts suggest being cautious about the amount of processed meat you may be eating. In fact, experts said, although the study is not definitive, it raised important questions that consumers need to know.
"The study doesn't suggest that people should panic if they had a piece of processed meat for lunch or cut it out of their diet completely, but as people are making choices [it] may be better to move away a little bit from the processed meats," said Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale University School of Medicine.
One serving per week or less of processed meat, equivalent to perhaps one hot dog or two slices of deli meat, would be relatively low risk, Micha said.
Although Krumholz agreed that both processed and unprocessed foods hold their fair share of health risks, he said moderation of both processed and unprocessed meats contributes to an overall healthy diet.
"It's about portion size and about eating sensibly," Krumholz said. "If people use prudence in looking at their meals, they're going to do fine."
Average Nutritional and Preservative Contents in Red Meats* (Examples: Steak, Hamburger, Pork Chops and Lamb) (per 50g)
SODIUM: 127.1 mg
TOTAL FAT: 7.7 g
SATURATED FAT: 2.9 g
PROTEIN: 13.5 g
NITRATES: 2.9 mg
Average Nutritional and Preservative Contents in Processed Meats* (Examples: Bacon, Sausage, Packaged Ham and Hot Dogs)
SODIUM: 575.8 mg
TOTAL FAT: 12.3 g
SATURATED FAT: 4.4 g
PROTEIN: 8.8 g
NITRATES: 3.0 mg
CHOLESTEROL: 28.3 mg
*Data based on a 2005-2006 United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey