Publication Date: 10/2019
Summary: Despite the nutritional value of meat, a large volume of reviews and meta-analyses suggests that processed meat intake is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases. However, assessments of the quality of these published reviews internal validity are generally lacking. We systematically reviewed and assessed the quality alongside summarizing the results of previously published systematic reviews and meta-analyses that examined the association between processed meat intake and cancers, type II diabetes (T2D), and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Reviews and meta-analyses published until May 2018 were identified through a systematic literature search in the databases MEDLINE and EMBASE, and reference lists of included reviews. The quality of the systematic reviews and meta-analyses was assessed using A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR). All eligible reviews had to comply with two quality requirements: providing sufficient information on quality assessment of the primary studies and a comprehensive search. The results were summarized for T2D, CVD, and each of the different cancer types. The certainty in the estimates of the individual outcomes was rated using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) method. In total, 22 systematic reviews were eligible and thus included in this review. More than 100 reviews were excluded because quality assessment of the primary studies had not been performed. The AMSTAR score of the included reviews ranged from 5 to 8 indicating moderate quality. Overall, the quality assessments of primary studies of the reviews are generally lacking; the scientific quality of the systematic reviews reporting positive associations between processed meat intake and risk of various cancers, T2D and CVD is moderate, and the results from case-control studies suggest more often a positive association than the results from cohort studies. The overall certainty in the evidence was very low across all individual outcomes, due to serious risk of bias and imprecision.