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Americans Eating Less Red Meat But A Lot Of Processed Meats, Study Finds

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Sausages are one of the top five most eaten processed foods by Americans adults weekly. Also included in the list are bacon, luncheon meat, hot dogs, and ham.  ( Andreas Lischka | Pixabay )

Are there changes in the American consumption of red meat and processed meat in the last 18 years? While Americans have lessened their consumption of red meat, there is not much improvement when it comes to processed meats.

American Meat Consumption

Researchers of a new study wanted to measure the consumption of different types of meats of adult Americans compared to their consumption of poultry, unprocessed red meat, fish, and shellfish for the past 18 years. To do so, they had a look at the 1999-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data of 43,995 American adults aged 20 and over, and changes in the mean intake was computed as the difference between the 1999-2000 and the 2015-2016 data.

Based on the data, American adults’ mean consumption of red meat declined, while their consumption of poultry increased and the consumption of fish and shellfish did not change. Another thing that did not change in the last 18 years is Americans’ consumption of processed meat.

Processed Meats

In order, the top five processed meats Americans eat on a weekly basis in 2015-2016 are luncheon meat, sausages, hot dogs, ham, and bacon, with stores and fast-food restaurants being the top purchase locations for the processed meats.

Basically, even if Americans’ lessened their consumption of red meat in the last 18 years, about a quarter of all the red meat and poultry consumption come from processed meats. In fact, Americans still eat more processed meat in a year than fish and shellfish, despite the many studies linking processed meat to cancer, heart disease and obesity, and the many studies showing the health benefits of consuming two servings of fish per week.

Protein Source

It is possible that the high cost of fish as well as concerns about mercury content contribute to this trend, and researchers say that a lack of education about protein choice could be a contributing factor as well, particularly about the health benefits of fish and the negative impacts of processed meats.

Although both are real sources of protein, researchers say it is important for people to know that the actual source of protein matters.

The study is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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