Eating Processed Meats

Evaluating Risk Factors: Processed Meat Consumption

Evaluating your likely current (and near future) state of health means taking into account the risk factors — such as eating processed meats — that affect you.   Our medical diagnosis tool, The Analyst™, identifies major risk factors by asking the right questions.

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In the Food Intake section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about eating processed meats:
How often do you consume processed meats? Examples include hot dogs, sausages, bacon, jerky, smoked ham, pepperoni, salami, lunch meat, sandwich meats, or red meat in canned/frozen products.
Possible responses:
→ Never / don't know
→ Once per week or less
→ 2-3 times per week
→ 4-7 times per week
→ A lot / more than once daily

The Diagnostic Process

Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no processed meat consumption, processed meat consumption or high processed meat consumption, The Analyst™ will use differential diagnosis to consider possibilities such as:
Colon Cancer

One study has revealed that every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 50%.

Consequences of Poor Diet

July, 2011: Following a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has declared, "Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption.  Consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives."

Processed meat products are usually manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite.  This is used as a color fixer by meat companies to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh.  Unfortunately, sodium nitrite also results in the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the human body.  And this leads to a sharp increase in cancer risk for those who eat them.

Diabetes Type II

August, 2011: A study by researchers at Harvard University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that consuming red meat – in particular, processed meats – can drastically increase one's risk of developing diabetes.

The researchers examined the health records and diets of more than 440,000 men and women spanning a period of between 14 and 28 years and found that people who ate 100gm of red meat a day were 19% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

More importantly, processed meats such as bacon, products made from mince, and cold meats such as ham and salami, had a far greater effect: Just 50gm a day, the equivalent of two slices of bacon, one sausage or one small burger, increases the risk of developing diabetes by 51%.

There is widespread evidence that red meat drastically increases the likelihood of major health problems including heart disease, strokes and some types of cancer.  Until now, however, there has been little evidence that relatively small amounts of processed red meat could increase the chance of diabetes.

Previous research has found that just 100gm of red meat every day – or half a normal size steak – increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by 20%.

Pancreatic Cancer

May, 2005: The University of Hawaii released a new study that shows people who consume processed meats have a 67% increased risk of pancreatic cancer over those who consume little or no meat products.  The study was done over a period of seven years on nearly 200,000 people.  Researchers pin the blame on sodium nitrite, a chemical used in nearly all processed meats, including sausage, hot dogs, jerkies, bacon, lunch meat, and even meats in canned soup products.  Sodium nitrite is a precursor to highly carcinogenic nitrosamines – potent cancer-causing chemicals that accelerate the formation and growth of cancer cells throughout the body.

Stomach Cancer

Nitrates and nitrites, such as those in hot dogs, lunch meats, and other cured meats, increase food levels of nitrates, which can lead to the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach.

Processed meats are often salted or smoked, or nitrites may be added to them, in order to prolong their shelf-life.  It may be the case that these treatments increase the risk of developing stomach cancer, but previous studies have given contradictory results.

Said Susanna Larsson, research student at The Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, "We decided to carry out a meta-analysis.  This is an analysis in which we collated all research into processed meats and stomach cancer that we could find".

They found 15 studies, covering 4,704 subjects in the period 1966 to 2006, and the results are unequivocal: the risk of developing stomach cancer increases by between 15% and 38% when consumption of processed meat products increases by 30gm (approximately a half-portion) per day.

["Processed Meat Consumption and Stomach Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis"; Susanna C. Larsson, Nicola Orsini and Alicja Wolk; Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volym 98, Nummer 15, Augusti 2006]

Testicular Cancer

In October of 2003, the largest study on diet and testicular cancer ever conducted was published, studying the diets of hundreds of cancer victims.  After cheese consumption, the second strongest dietary risk factor for testicular cancer seemed to be the consumption of lunch meat. [International Journal of Cancer 106 (2003): p.934]

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