Does Processed Meat Cause Cancer?

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) began classifying processed meat as a carcinogen. In comparison to other types of cancer, the link between colorectal cancer and processed meat was the strongest. More specifically, the WHO estimates that consumption of 50 grams of processed meat per day (the equivalent to 2 slices of bacon or 1 hot dog), could increase your chances of developing colorectal cancer by 18% (Relative, not absolute risk. But still.)

What is considered processed?

Processed meat is any type of meat that has been modified in some way to increase the flavor or shelf-life. Typically, this is done by salting, curing, smoking or simply adding preservatives. Popular processed meats include hotdogs, sausages, bacon, salami, corned beef and beef jerky.

What about non-processed meat?

When WHO released their report in 2015, they also stated that non-processed red meats were “probably non-carcinogenic,” which basically means that more research needs to be done before they can come to a conclusion. 

We do know that foods high in protein and fat, like red meat, contribute to Advanced Glycation End Products, which are more commonly referred to AGEs. AGEs are formed either in our food or in our bodies when sugar reacts with protein or fat. The kind of AGE found in our food supply, or dietary AGEs, are produced more readily by dry cooking techniques like grilling, roasting, searing and frying (versus braising or stewing). When AGE’s build-up in our body, inflammation can occur, which can lead to the progression of aging, heart disease, insulin resistance and more. While there is no way to completely avoid dietary AGE’s, reducing red meat consumption, whether processed or non-processed is a good start.

The Bottom Line

As you may know by now, our foods are all plant-based with no meat on the menu. Our goal is to introduce folks to the satisfaction, joy and well researched health benefits that come along with plant-based eating.  If you choose to include meat in your diet, please do focus on both the quality and quantity of the products you consume.  

Photo Credit: Huffington Post