Leave Processed Meats Behind

Kara Bauer Health Guide
  • In the past year there has been a lot of press about the dangers of processed meats. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has even gone so far as to recommend that people cut their consumption down to zero due to their cancer causing potential. They have also been linked to a host of other aliments and are connected to additional health damaging behaviors. Most would agree that if you are going to consume meat, consume fresh organic meats that don’t contain chemical additives and preservatives. If you do choose to eat processed meats, the health consequences are serious and may even lead to premature death.

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    Processed meats include hot dogs, bacon, salami, beef jerky, pepperoni, sandwich meat slices, breakfast sausages, and meats in canned and frozen foods. Anything smoked, cured, salted or preserved fall into the processed meats category. Excess saturated fat consumption alone is not the biggest worry when it comes to this type of processed food. The most dangerous risk comes from the sodium nitrates used to preserve the meats, which are converted into cancer causing nitrosamines. Although the USDA tried to ban sodium nitrate in the 1970s, the meat industry fought back, claiming that it was the only preservative that effectively worked to maintain the color and flavor of red meat, along with customer appeal.

     

    For this reason, the WCRF has declared processed meats as too dangerous for consumption, after conducting an analysis in 2007 that stated the following statistics associated with the consumption of 1.8oz (50g) of processed meat per day (equivalent to 2 slices of sandwich meats, 1 hotdog/sausage or 3 pieces of bacon).[1]

     

    -20% increased risk of overall cancer

    -50% increased risk of colorectal cancer

    -59% increased risk of bladder cancer

    -38% increased risk of stomach cancer

    -67% increased risk of pancreatic cancer

     

    Other research studies have also indicated that the consumption of processed meats raises the risk of heart disease and diabetes. One study found that the same 1.8oz (50g) of daily intake increase heart disease risk by 42% and diabetes risk by 19% [2] (other studies stating this risk to be as high as 50%[3]). This is due to both the excess sodium (3-4x more than unprocessed meats [2]) and the chemical preservatives. High sodium consumption weakens blood vessels and increases the burden on the heart. The nitrates also decrease the secretion of insulin, disrupting blood sugar regulation and contributing to the onset of diabetes.

     

    Recently the BBC reported a study that linked processed meats to early death. The study found that those who ate 160g of processed meat per day were 44% more likely to die during the follow up time (12.7 years) than those eating 20g per day. During the follow-up period, 10,000 people died from cancer and 5,500 from heart problems. However, they also indicated that its hard to pinpoint the cause of death to only processed meat consumption since those who consume processed meats are also more likely to smoke, suffer from obesity or partake in other health damaging behaviors.[4]

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    If you are going to consume processed meats, your best bet is to consume a high level of Vitamin C and E beforehand as a protection strategy. These antioxidants are known to inhibit the conversion of nitrate into nitrosamines. In fact, the USDA now requires that Vitamin C be used in the production of bacon cure for this very reason.[1] It’s also important to understand that processed meats overcooked at high temperatures are even more damaging as they contain heterocyclic amines (HCAs) also linked to cancer. You’ll also want to choose organic meats that are uncured, don’t contain nitrates, are 100% pure meat and are void of artificial ingredients.[1] In other words, it’s best to choose fresh, unprocessed meat to comfortably avoid these risks specifically associated with processed meats.

     

    [1] Mercola, J. (2011, January 22) If you eat processed meats, are you risking your life? Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/01/22/if-you-eat-processed-meats-youre-risking-your-life.aspx

     

    [2] (2010, May 17). Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/17/us-heart-meat-idUSTRE64G5TN20100517

     

    [3] Mercola, J. (2008, April 17). Eating just 1 sausage a day raises your cancer risk by 20%. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/04/17/eating-just-one-sausage-a-day-raises-your-cancer-risk-by-20-percent.aspx

     

    [4] Gallagher, J. (2013, March 7). Processed meat 'early' death link. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21682779

Published On: April 02, 2013