The World Health Organisation has declared that processed meats cause cancer, comparing in risk to smoking, asbestos and arsenic. The WHO says that sausage, ham and yes, even everyone’s favourite, bacon, are hazardous enough to be classified as Group 1 carcinogens, due to a causal relationship with colon cancer.
Red meat did not emerge unscathed from this study, being named a Group 2A carcinogen, probably causing cancer of the pancreas and prostate, according to the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. The IARC says that as little as 50 grams of processed meat daily, less than 2 ounces, increases the probability of bowel cancer by 18%.
Needless to say, the special interest groups are flipping out, launching into major spin doctor mode. But the World Cancer Research Fund has been warning people about processed meat for years, recommending that consumers avoid ham, bacon and salami, and eat no more than 500 grams of red meat per week, equivalent to about two and a half ounces per day of meats like beef, pork or lamb.
At Oxford University, epidemiologist Tim Key of Cancer Research UK stated that his organization is in full agreement with the findings of the IARC. He said, “There’s strong enough evidence to classify processed meat as a cause of cancer, and red meat as a probable cause of cancer.”
This of course is not intended to insinuate that smoking and obesity are not much worse for you than bacon. But the problem is, if the data links meat to malignancy up to the standard of top scientists, then it’s harmful enough to influence our lifestyle decision-making and invite us to question our typical diet. If you’re serious about health and wellness, it stands to reason that you would minimize or stop the intake of foods and other substances known to cause cancer.
It’s also worth mentioning that the negative effects of toxic foods are probably both cumulative and concurrent with other negative agents – if you don’t smoke, aren’t overweight and you exercise regularly, it’s probably less likely that eating an occasional beef jerky will compromise your overall well-being to any noticeable degree.
But unfortunately, indiscriminate eating, drinking, smoking and other self-indulgences tend to run in packs, so if you want to diminish the likelihood of life-threatening illness, a review of your overall health habits will be your best course of action, with a nutritional evaluation that leads to a reduction or elimination of risky foods, including processed and red meats.
Too many people are unaware of even the most fundamental rules of dietary design. Many would be challenged to feed themselves without some of these foods that are now being shown to damage our health. Are you challenged? Can you design a diet with fewer of these carcinogens or would you like help? Let me know, it can be organised.