London: Regularly tucking into sausages, bacon, ready meals and pies dramatically increases the chances of developing heart disease and cancer, a new study has warned.
People who live on processed meat increase their risk of dying by 44 percent.
Experts said that three percent of early deaths could be prevented each year if people ate under 20 grams of processed meat a day - less than a single rasher of bacon.
But there was good news for those who enjoy a steak or a Sunday roast. A small amount of red meat such as beef, pork or lamb could be beneficial as an important source of vitamins and nutrients.
The research by the University of Zurich, one of the largest studies of its kind, involved half a million men and women aged 35 to 70 with widely ranging diets from 10 European countries.
They filled in questionnaires about the food they had eaten over the previous 12 months with meats grouped into red, white and processed.
Red meat included pork, horse and goat as well as beef and lamb, while white meat included chicken, turkey, duck and rabbit.
High consumption of processed meat was defined as 160 grams or more a day, the equivalent of around three sausages or six rashers of bacon.
Over the follow-up period, around 13 years, 5,556 people died from heart and artery disease, 9,861 from cancer, and 1,068 from respiratory diseases.
The results suggest eating large amounts of processed meat leads to a 72 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease, and an 11 percent increased risk of dying from cancer.
The findings are published in the journal BMC Medicine.