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Despite health risks, Americans can't kick processed meat

Hot dogs and french fries

July 18, 2019— Despite strong evidence linking processed meat to a raised risk of cancer, Americans can't seem to resist eating it, a new study shows.

Researchers looked at dietary data collected on nearly 44,000 Americans ages 20 and older between 1999 and 2016. They found that U.S. adults are eating just as much processed meat as they were nearly two decades ago. Examples of processed meat include luncheon meat, bacon and hot dogs.

In addition to a cancer risk, a steady diet of processed meats raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

The researchers also discovered that American adults are eating roughly the same amount of fish as they did in 1999.

Government guidelines advise eating at least 8 ounces of fish every week. But fewer than 15% of adults meet this guideline, the study showed. Fish is a lean, nutritious source of protein. Consuming the recommended amounts may protect against heart disease.

What are the reasons behind this bad dietary news?

A widespread lack of awareness about the health risks processed meats pose may help explain why adults aren't cutting back on them, the researchers said.

As for fish, concerns about its price or mercury content may be reasons people shy away from eating it. But its health benefits outweigh any potential risk for most people, research shows.

Some encouraging news

Still, there was a silver lining in the study.

Adults are eating less unprocessed red meat than before. That's mainly because they've scaled back on beef. For the first time, in fact, they're helping themselves to more chicken than unprocessed red meat.

The study appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

No-fuss fish

If fish isn't something you regularly eat—or cook— this recipe for steamed halibut with ginger and green beans might make you a fan.

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