Processed Meats Officially Linked To Cancer Says World Health Organization

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The WHO (World Health Organization) has finally come out and said that processed meats are directly linked to cancer. In fact, it's report states that eating 50mg of processed meat a day (less that two slices of bacon) increased the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. They also said that red meats were "probably carcinogenic" but there was limited evidence. So, what does all this mean? 

What Exactly Is Processed Meat? 

If you're getting fresh sliced meat daily, don't worry. Simply putting your beef through a mincer or slicer doesn't mean that meat is 'processed'...but if you modify it much further, it might be! 

Processed meat is meat that has been modified in order to either extend the shelf life it has or change the taste of the meat. What does that mean? Well, if you're eating meat that has been smoke, cured, or had salt and preservatives added to it, it looks like you're eating processed meats. 

What are the obvious processed meats? Well, you can pretty much count on bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky, and ham to be processed, but don't forget about canned meat and meat-based sauces too. 

what-is-processed-meat

What Makes Processed Meats So Dangerous?

The chemicals are what you have to look out for! The chemicals involved in processing the meat, when cooked at a high temperature like a bbq, can create carcinogenic chemicals. 

Let's get a realistic grasp of this 'danger'. The WHO has recently placed processed meats in the same category as plutonium and alcohol...but are they really that dangerous?

"For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed," Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said.  The most recent estimates put about 34,000 deaths from cancer linked to processed meats per year. 

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34,000 deaths is definitely bad, but let's put that into perspective. There's over 1 MILLION deaths related to cancer from smoking and over 600,000 deaths linked to alcohol each year. 

Let's not forget that red meat does also contain some nutritional benefits such as it being a major source of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. 

What Does This "Processed Meat Problem" Actually Mean? 

University of Oxford Professor, Tim Key said, "This decision doesn't mean that you need to stop eating any red or processed meat, but if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down. Eating a bacon sandwich every once in a while isn't going to do much harm, but having a healthy diet is all about moderation."

Dr. Teresa Norat, adviser to the WHO, from Imperial College London said, "People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fiber from fruits and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol as well as be physically active."

So, like everything in life, moderation is key and so is being active. This really isn't that big of a shocker, is it?