March 12/Boston/NBC News -- A new study from the highly respected researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health offers some of the best and most detailed evidence yet that a daily serving of meat can increase risk of heart disease or cancer.

The Harvard scientists followed almost 84,000 women and 38,000 men in the Nurse’s Health Study and Health Professional’s Follow-Up Study for 28 years. It found those eating a daily serving of red meat were 13% more likely to die in the study period, and approximately 14% more likely to develop heart disease or cancer. Those numbers go up to 20% more deaths and an estimated 18% more heart problems and cancer for those who reported eating a daily serving of processed meats such as hot dogs, salami and bacon.

In the realm of health risks, these are not huge numbers. Daily cigarette smoking adds risk of some 2,000-4000% for these hazards. However, across the U.S. population, Americans’ love of meat likely accounts for about 1.5 million excess deaths every decade, according to research from the National Institutes of Health.

According to the American Meat Institute, Americans consume on average 65 pounds of pork and a similar amount of beef per person every year. Those numbers have changed little over the past two decades. At the same time, chicken consumption has climbed sharply to around 80 pounds a year, while turkey logs in at 15 pounds a year.

 From the March 13, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.