Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Are red meat and processed meats really that bad?

Last week brought with it some pretty earth shattering news, and no I am not just talking about the news of Karla Kardashian…

I am referring to the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring that consuming red meats and processed meats increases cancer risk. Now, I know that most of you probably care more about the Kardashians than this, but for those of you who do, I am going to talk you through what this means. First, let’s start with the basics.

Who is WHO?
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that focuses on public health. It employs some of the world’s finest doctors, scientist, epidemiologist, etc., etc. To sum it up the WHO is…

What constitutes as red meat and processed meats?
According to WHO red meat is any of the following: beef, veal, lamb, mutton, goat and everybody’s favorite, horse. Processed meats is considered as any meat that has been transformed to improve its flavor or preserve it (think smoked or cured meats)—sausages, hot dogs, salami, jerky, deli meats, bologna, spam, anything smoked and the beloved bacon.

Not new news...
I am not sure why everyone is so shocked by this “news.” The American Cancer Society made this recommendation to limit red meat and processed back in 2002 citing potential linkages to cancer.

Not just cancer...
This report only focuses on the linkage between consumption of red meat and processed meat and cancer. What it doesn't mention is the high saturated fat and sodium content that both red meat and processed meats have. So on top of the whole cancer thing, red meat and processed meat are not good for your heart either.

How bad is it?
Well, it is not anywhere as bad as tobacco. To put it in perspective, smoking three cigarettes a day increases your cancer risk by 500%, while eating a couple slices of bologna a day increases it by 18% (source). The cancer that is most associated with eating red and processed meats is colon, prostate, and pancreatic.  

Why is this such a big deal if the effect is small?
So perhaps this has been a bit overhyped, but I think that this is something that Americans need to hear more of. Yes, eating red meat and processed meat does not have the same dangers and deadliness of tobacco, but I know a lot more people who eat red or processed meats on the regular than I do people who smoke.

What if I want to eat red or processed meats?
If you are thinking this right now…

…here are a couple of pointers to reduce your risk.
  • Cook red meat at low temperatures (read: do not grill, pan-fry, deep fry, etc.)-cooking them at higher temperatures produce the highest amounts of chemicals suspected of causing cancer.
  • Don’t eat it every day- I like pizza. I do not eat it every day because it is not very healthy to do so.
  • Moderation- Similarly to the above sentiment…I like pizza. I don’t eat it every day. When I do eat it, I only eat like two pieces, not an entire pizza.  

Breaking it down
It has been well known for a while that red meat and processed meat is not very good for your health. This research just confirms that there is a link between consuming red meat and processed meats and cancer. Is red meat and processed meats as harmful as cigarettes? No. Will occasionally eating these give you cancer? No, however if you have a family history of colon cancer you may want to consider not eating them every day. Eating red meat and processed meat is presents more of a threat to your heart than your risk of getting cancer from it. Basically what I am trying to say is eat more fruits, vegetables, poultry, seafood (heck maybe even try going vegetarian), and maybe not put bacon on everything. Well I am off to go cook some bacon for my all of my ex's. 
Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,



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