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Will Processed Meat or Red Meat Cause Cancer?

Processed Meats and Red Meat, Will it Actually Kill You?

If you haven’t seen a news article about the latest news from the WHO (World Health Organization) regarding processed and red meats, you are probably in a cave with no internet, it’s been everywhere and lots of attention catching headlines…is all the hype true?

Processed meats: Processed meat is meat which has been preserved through smoking, curing, salting, or by the addition of preservatives such as ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, hot dogs and some sausages. The WHO said that there is “sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer” They have classified it as a carcinogenic to humans (Group 1 ranking).

Red meats: Red meat is beef, lamb, pork, goat and other mammalian meat. The WHO said “based on limited

evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect” and have classified it as a probable carcinogen to humans (Group 2A).

In addition, they stated that for every 50 grams processed meats (about 2 slices of bacon) consumed daily, there is an18% increased risk of colorectal cancer. On average, five percent of the population will get colorectal cancer, consuming more processed meats will increase this to six percent. Put it in a different way, out of 100 people who consume processed meat, 6 will most likely get colorectal cancer throughout their lifetime, but if all of them cut processed meats out of their diet, 1 will be saved and only 5 will most likely get colorectal cancer. This increase in risk was mainly referring to consumption of processed meats, not red meats.

So...will eliminating meats reduce the chance of colorectal cancer, according to the WHO, most likely, but red meat is also a great source of protein, minerals and vitamins and eliminating that from our diets could also lead to other risks.

What will I do?

I’m not going to lie, I probably will not reduce my red meat consumption, mainly because I normally consume less than one serving a day. I will however, reduce the amount of processed meats that I consume. At the moment it is a small amount, but this evidence is just that extra push to get me to completely eliminate processed meats from my diet. We have to understand that there are other things that can also be done to reduce the risks of colorectal cancer including not being overweight, eating more fruits and vegetables and not living a sedentary lifestyle.

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