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If You're Worried About Processed Meat Giving You Cancer, Try These Instead

Based on conclusive evidence, processed meat has been linked to an increase of several cancers. New recommendations are out from the World Health Organization for processed and red meats.

Recently, there have been multiple findings published on the World Health Organization's site that support the conclusion that bacon and other processed meats are linked to an increased risk of cancer. Meats like bacon have been processed through methods including salting, fermentation, smoking, flavor additives, and curing. The purpose of processing these meats is to modify the flavor, improve preservation or change the appearance. Processed meats, especially in the case of foods like hot dogs, can contain many different kinds of meat or animal by-products. Some of the most commonly eaten processed meats include bacon, ham, sausages, deli meats, frankfurters, corned beef, jerky and some canned meats.

The WHO and other health agencies recommend reducing the amount of processed meats consumed because enough epidemiological studies have concluded that there are increases in the risk of several cancers associated with processed meat intake. This authoritative scientific evidence was collected and evaluated with the aim to identify risks to peoples’ health.

Although meats should always be cooked thoroughly to ensure safety, high heat cooking of meats can lead to the development of carcinogenic chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hetrocyclic aromatic amines. These carcinogenic chemicals are also found in air pollution. Although the review was not yet able to determine the relationship between these compounds, processed meat and cancer risk. Additionally, often these meats are high in sodium and fat which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Processed meats were classified as Group 1 in level of carcinogenic to humans. This was determined by convincing evidence that they can cause cancer. For just colorectal cancer alone there was sufficient evidence to make this determination. Red meat is classified as Group 2A, which means that some epidemiological studies have shown evidence that there are increased rates of cancer for people who eat red meat.

Although they did not determine a safe amount of processed meat, people who are concerned about cancer should consider reducing their intake of processed meat and red meat until specific guidelines are developed. More than likely governments will use this collection of information on the relationship of processed meat and cancer to update dietary recommendations.

Other alternatives to Processed Meats

  • Vegetables! Increasing your intake of vegetables is associated with improved health and reduced risk of cancer.
  • Hummus, and other bean spreads
  • Vegetarian deli meats, veggie hotdogs, and other alternatives
  • Seafood
  • Falafel
  • Beans!
  • Avocados
  • Cheese including non-dairy and goat
  • Canned mackerel, and tuna
  • Mussels, clams and other seafood
  • Tofu and Tempeh
  • Textured vegetable protein

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