Health Insider Update


World Health Organization says Processed Meats Cause Cancer

World Health Organization says Processed Meats Cause Cancer
November 13
16:00 2015

According to the World Health Organization, meats like ham, sausage, and bacon cause cancer. To put it into numbers, just two slices of bacon per day (or 50 grams of processed meats) increases your chances of developing colorectal cancer by a whopping 18%.

Processed Meat

The term “processed meat” refers to items that have been modified in order to extend shelf life or alter the taste. Processing methods include adding salt or preservatives, curing, and smoking.

The chemicals involved in these processes, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and N-nitroso compounds, are considered carcinogens. Cooking processed meats at high temperatures – like on a BBQ – increases the damage.

We recommend cutting back on the following meats, all of which are processed:
• Sausage
• Bacon
• Corned beef
• Salami
• Ham
• Beef jerky
• Canned meat
• Meat-based sauces

WHO’s findings are based on data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Processed meats have made it into “Group 1” on the carcinogen list, meaning that they definitely do cause cancer. Group 1 also includes plutonium and alcohol.

However, that does not mean that eating a bacon sandwich for breakfast is as dangerous as smoking a cigarette. According to WHO Dr. Kurt Straif, “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

The World Health Organization hypothesizes that over 30,000 cancer deaths per year are caused by diets too high in processed meat. However, to put things into perspective:

• 21% of bowel cancer cases are caused by meat consumption
• 86% of lung cancer cases result from tobacco
• 19% of all cancer cases are caused by tobacco
• 3% of all cancer cases are result from meat

Red Meat

While stressing the importance of red meat in a healthy diet, WHO stated that red meat (including beef, pork, and lamb) is “probably carcinogenic.” The evidence backing this claim, however, is limited.

Findings suggest that consuming 100 grams of red meat per day increases your chances of developing cancer by 17%. An 8oz steak, by the way, is equivalent to 225 grams.

Red meat includes vital nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. In other words, it’s not a good idea to cut it out of your diet altogether.

“This decision doesn’t mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat, but if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down,” said University of Oxford Professor Tim Key. “Eating a bacon bap every once in a while isn’t going to do much harm – having a healthy diet is all about moderation.”

WHO believes its findings will help when giving other countries diet advice.

“People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fiber, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active,” said WHO advisor Doctor Teresa Norat.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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