Men who gorge on bacon, ham and sausages could be damaging their hearts and heading for an early grave, new research has shown.

A large study of more than 37,000 men found that processed meat significantly increases the risk of death from heart failure.

Those consuming the most — 75 grams per day or more — were twice as likely to die from heart failure than those who ate 25 grams or less. Every extra 50 grams of processed meat, the equivalent of one or two slices of ham, increased heart-failure risk by 8% and the chances of dying from the condition by 38%.

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Last year a study of half a million people from 10 European countries concluded that diets high in processed meat raised the risk of early death. Processed meat has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

The new research conducted in Sweden is the first to distinguish between the effects of processed and unprocessed red (non-poultry) meat.

It found that while processed meat had a big impact on heart failure and death rates, the same was not true of unprocessed meat.

The authors defined processed meats as those preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Examples included cold cuts, such as ham or salami, sausages, bacon and hot dogs.