Well the World Health Organization (WHO) has once again taken the joy out of the American diet. They made headlines recently for their proclamation about the health risks of eating meat. The Time headline is, The War on Delicious which is very appropriate when an organization wages war on the foods so many Americans eat. So what are the health risks with red meat, processed meats and what meats are they talking about? How much can you eat before you are at risk? As a person who enjoys a bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich, a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with Canadian bacon, I did not take the news lightly that processed meats are bad for one’s health.
Health Risks and Processed Meat
WHO attributes about 34,000 cancer deaths each year to diets high in eating processed meats. For red meat, they attribute 50,000 deaths a year. But as Time points out, tobacco-related cancer is linked to 1 million deaths a year. How much raises your risk, about 50 grams of processed meat a day. Especially of concern are processed meats containing sodium nitrates as a preservative. These change to nitrosamines in our body, which are carcinogenic. Interesting, vitamin C inhibits nitrosamine production. So maybe eating our morning bacon with a glass of orange juice would cancel some of the harmful effects of nitrates in the bacon.
How much is 50 grams of processed meat? WHO noted that 50 grams of processed meat A DAY raises the risk of colon cancer by 18%. So how much is 50 grams of processed meat? Time lists this out as:
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 hot dog
- 1 slices ham
- 5 slices hard salami
- 2 slices Canadian bacon
What are Processed Meats? Many people eat “meat” and don’t think whether it is processed or not. How does WHO define processed meats? Meat that is smoked, salted, cured, or changed by processing to make it taste better or last longer.
- Hot Dogs
- Packaged Turkey
- Corned Beef
- Beef Jerky
- Canned Meat
- Chicken Nuggets
Well, that just about covers it for many people’s lunches. Switching to a cheese or peanut butter sandwich seems to be a healthier alternative than a processed meat sandwich. Or don’t have the processed meat for lunch every day of the week to lower your risk.
For me, I will still enjoy my bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and my hot dog on a whole wheat bun. But I don’t eat these every day. Maybe adding some vitamin C rich food to these meals will help negate the health risks of eating processed meats.