According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the consumption of processed meat increases the risk of developing cancer.
According to studies, processed meat like sausages, salami and ham, which has been matured, fermented or smoked, can cause colorectal and stomach cancer. Meat consumption is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancers.
According to experts, people who eat 50 grams of processed meat on a daily basis increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. And, given that a large number of people consume this type of meat, the impact on cancer occurrences is of great public-health significance.
Health experts say that this has been known for more than 10 years, but now also the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have made specific recommendations. They classify meats in the same category as alcohol and tobacco.
Namely, the WHO and IARC classify processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen, with sufficient evidence that it causes cancer in humans.
Thus, health organizations recommend limiting the consumption of sausages and red meat to max 500 grams per week. You don’t have to eliminate it, just be careful not to make it your main source of protein.
The Genesis Of The Problem With Processed Meat
The ingredients used in the manufacture of processed meats and the foods with which the animals are fed, are responsible for the carcinogenic properties of the meat.
Some ingredients, which are used in the manufacture of sausages, when in contact with heat, get carcinogenic properties. Such are the heterocyclic amines, which are mutagenic compounds. They cause mutations in the DNA that cause an increased risk of colorectal cancer. And especially the charred portion of the cooked meat contains the most heterocyclic amines.
Feeding the animals that are consumed by humans is also problematic. Namely, meat was not an issue at the beginning, when the animals ate grass. It’s the industrial manipulation that makes today’s meats more problematic.
For example, people in Argentina consume on average twice as much red meat as North Americans, but they have half the colorectal cancer.
This is mainly because the animals in Argentina are raised in the fields and eat grass. We are what we eat. And, when we eat animals, our metabolism is affected in terms of health by what they eat.
If we feed the animals with soybean and corn kernels, results in an imbalance of the Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratios. And, this is what’s at the root of the meat problems in the human nutrition.
Limit Your Meat Consumption
According to the Global Burden of Disease Project, diets high in processed meat are responsible for approximately 34k cancer deaths a year worldwide. In comparison, tobacco is responsible for about 1mio cancer deaths. Alcohol for 600k and air pollution for more than 200k cancer deaths per year.
These results confirm the current public health recommendations to limit the consumption of processed meat.
You can start by marinating meat on your own, with olive oil, lemon juice and herbs before cooking. This can help you reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines by 80 percent.
Consuming meat in soups, stir-fries or couscous is better than eating a big piece of rare meat with a few vegetables. It’s the overconsumption that is always problematic. So, being moderate could be the key to your health and longevity!
Carcinogenicity of consumption of red meat and processed meat: A review of scientific news since the IARC decision.
Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat