Recipes and Tips for Healthier Living and Smarter Budgeting

Friday, May 31, 2013

Processed Meats Too Dangerous for Human Consumption

My family eats red meat once a week or so, but very little processed meat. Last fall, after saving up for it, we bought a large, upright freezer and stocked it with 1/4th of a cow. This was local, grass-fed beef and was an exciting investment for us. I was immediately impressed by the superiority of the beef's flavor and by how much less greasy it was than I expected. That was when I knew for sure we'd made the right decision to switch to fresh, grass-fed beef.

But sometimes it's nice to have a couple slices of lunch meat on a sandwich, or put pepperoni on homemade pizza. However, reading articles like this one, which I was just made aware of last week through a friend, remind me of how truly bad processed meat is for our bodies. The article begins with this startling news: "The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has just completed a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer. Its conclusion is rocking the health world with startling bluntness: Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption. Consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives." (Italics added)

Wow. That is very direct and very clear. But the tendency sometimes is to wave off that kind of statement with, "Everything causes cancer anyway." So, lest the above statement seems too dramatic, here are some numbers for you: One study "revealed that every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent." Fifty grams is one serving, or about 4 slices of lunch meat. So, really not much. And that risk goes up not each year that we eat processed meat, but each day! That's hard to comprehend.

The article clarifies that not all red meat is bad for our health: "These cancer risks do not come from eating fresh, non-processed meats. They only appear in people who regularly consume processed meat products containing sodium nitrite."

The discussion of the evils of nitrates is not new to this blog (see here for previous posts on the topic), but it is something I don't always think about. And honestly, it's not something I often need to think about because we eat so little of processed meats anyway. But reading this article made me re-think even the small amount we do eat.

Please check out the article for more information on what foods contain nitrates/nitrites, how (and where) to avoid them, and why the USDA and FDA continue to allow sodium nitrite into processed foods. 

After all, knowledge + action = improved health = power.


Crystal said...

I was actually interested in the 21% statistic, and after being directed to a chain of articles, I found this clarification:
Note: this means that people who eat a hot dog every day have a 21 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer than if they never eat hot dogs.
So it's not a 21% increase per day, but if eaten every day.
Thanks for this reminder of why I shouldn't eat processed foods, including *sniff, sniff* bacon.

Katrina said...

Thanks for that clarification, Crystal. I had thought that was understood, but in case anyone wonders, you've answered that question. And you may not have to give up bacon altogether! If you look for them, you can find uncured bacon without nitrates. Sometimes you have to ask the butcher about it, but I know it's available (for a much higher price, of course). One of my neighbors recently told me about this--and she's allergic to BHT and all those nasties. So I know if she can tolerate this kind of bacon, it's must be pretty safe.


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