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Haem iron and nitrate/nitrite account for much of the mortality increase associated with red meat consumption
  1. Sabine Rohrmann1,2,
  2. Jakob Linseisen3,4
  1. 1 Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute (EBPI), University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  2. 2 Cancer Registry of the Cantons Zurich and Zug, Zurich, Switzerland
  3. 3 University Center of Health Sciences at Klinikum Augsburg (UNIKA-T), Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Augsburg, Germany
  4. 4 Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Epidemiology, Neuherberg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sabine Rohrmann, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute (EBPI), University of Zurich, Hirschengraben 84, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland; sabine.rohrmann{at}

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Commentary on: Etemadi, A, Sinha R, Ward MH, et al. Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ 2017;357:j1957.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer categorised processed meat as carcinogenic to humans in 2015.1 High red and processed meat consumption is positively associated with risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes as well as overall mortality.2 Usually the intake of processed red meat is found to be more strongly associated with disease outcomes than unprocessed red meat, which is thought to be due to preservation methods such as salting, curing and smoking, increasing the concentration of potentially hazardous substances in meat.3


In the US National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.