Study suggests consumers should balance bacon, other processed meat with cancer risks

By: Lexy Sheeley

What’s your favorite kind of meat? Hamburgers? Hotdogs? Cold meat sandwiches? Do you eat a plate of bacon for breakfast? Well, your greasy favorites could be leading to your early exit.

The World Health Organization has concluded processed meats such as bacon, sausage and ham raise the risk of cancer. It only takes 50g of processed meat a day — less than two slices of bacon — to increase the chance of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. That’s colon cancer. Pretty gross, huh?

Meanwhile, the WHO found red meat is also carcinogenic, but meat has health benefits, so you might as well not give up red or processed meats, right?

Processed meat comes in all colors and textures. It’s color and sometimes off textures come from the added preservatives to extend the shelf life and taste. Some of the main methods include smoking, curing and adding salt, which is already terrible for your health as it is.

But simply putting beef through a mincer doesn’t mean the resulting mince is processed unless modified further. Not all meat is processed, but bacon, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky, ham, canned meat and meat-based sauces are.

Now, the meat itself doesn’t cause cancer. Sure, you can find “clean” meat, but as Americans, we basically eat any kind of meat that’s cheap at the market, or whatever we can find within our budgets. And most likely, our dinners contains large amounts of chemicals that can cause cancer.

Sometimes it even isn’t the meat itself. High temperature cooking, such as a barbecue, can also create cancerous chemicals.

Roughly six out of every 100 people will get some kind of bowel cancer, and if those people continued eating processed meats daily, the statistics would rise to seven out of 100 people developing cancer.

But how bad is eating processed meats actually? The WHO has now placed processed meat into the same category as plutonium and alcohol. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re equally dangerous. Smoking is deadly, but processed meat isn’t as deadly. So, in reality, around the globe annually, 34,000 deaths can be caused by diets with large quantities of processed meat.

Red meat does contain iron, zinc and the vitamin B12, but the WHO said that 100g of red meat a day increased cancer by 17 percent. An eight-ounce steak is 225g.

There can be a compromise, though. You don’t necessarily have to stop eating processed meat (which I don’t understand how people eat it, because it’s nasty, but that’s just me), you have to eat it in moderation. Eating bacon once every few months isn’t going to do much harm; having a healthy diet and life is all about moderation. Fruit and vegetables can make up for the lack of nutrients from the meat.

So, eat what you want, but eat it in moderation to live a healthier life. Colon cancer doesn’t sound like much fun, and if you can stop that risk by cutting down your consumption on heavily processed meats, I’d take that into consideration.

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