Processed Meats

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When it comes to red meat, unprocessed cuts like a fresh steak or a slice off a pig's belly haven't conclusively been linked to cancer.

Processed Meat Cancer | Why Processed Meat Is Bad For You

Processed meat, however, has. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer , the average eater of red meat consumes about to grams of meat each day. This is not a new finding.


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Processed meat is prepared so that when you're ready to eat it — whether a few minutes, hours, days, or weeks after you buy a product — the food will be unspoiled, salted, and ready for consumption. But that convenience can have consequences.

Processed Meats and Your Health: What You Need to Know

These compounds include nitrates , which occur naturally in water and some foods but are used artificially as preservatives. Nitrates widen our arteries , and some like those found naturally in beets may even boost athletic performance. But too much nitrate in the body can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia , in which a person's blood is not as effective at moving needed oxygen into tissues.

It can make one's skin turn bluish and lead to headaches, shortness of breath, and fatigue.


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A roundup of studies performed on more than 1. If you're trying to avoid nitrates when shopping, it's important to remember that even processed meats labeled as nitrate-free can still have natural nitrates in them from added cane sugar, celery juice, or beetroot juice, as The Times recently reported. Eating a bratwurst on German Unity Day in in Berlin. Adding fire to the mix makes processed meats even more dangerous. For example, the nitrates that help preserve bacon easily turn to nitrosamine, a known cancer-causer, when it's fried.

Even if bacon isn't fried, nitrates can also turn to nitrosamine in our acidic stomach juices.

According to the National Cancer Institute , this isn't just a problem for processed meat. When beef, poultry, or fish is cooked over an open flame or pan-fried at high temperatures, the fat and juices those meats release can spark flames that contain dangerous chemicals, which then cook into the meat we eat. Pan-frying, grilling, and barbecuing are some of the most carcinogenic ways to prepare meat, according to the IARC.

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Research into the risks of eating processed meat is part of a larger scientific effort to pinpoint our most harmful eating habits. Colon and rectal cancer rates are soaring in people ages 20 to Researchers aren't sure why this group is developing bowel cancer at double the rate seen just three decades ago, but diet could be part of the problem.

What is processed meat?

Packaging could also be an issue: Plastic wrapping for food can include bisphenol S, or BPS, which can disrupt normal functioning of the endocrine system in animals. The one piece of advice most nutritionists agree on is that increasing the amount of fresh produce you eat is a good choice.

A analysis published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology estimated that about 20, cancer cases could be prevented every year if Americans just ate additional servings of fruits and vegetables each day. World globe An icon of the world globe, indicating different international options.

How much should we be eating?

Search icon A magnifying glass. Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. More Videos How bad for you are processed meats? According to the UK's National Health Service NHS , a slice of ham contains 23 grams of processed meat while a grilled 8 oz steak contains grams of red meat.


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  7. Cancer Research UK, which partly funded the research, said that current NHS guidance states that people who eat more than 90 grams cooked weight of red and processed meat a day should reduce this to 70 grams -- the average amount consumed per day in the UK. The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, tracked the diets of nearly half a million UK adults, between the ages of 40 and 69, and their diets were studied over the course of five years on average.

    During this time, 2, of the participants developed colorectal cancer.

    Processed Meats Linked to Cancer

    This latest research adds to a body of evidence that links red and processed meats to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. What we aren't eating is killing us, global study finds. He said that previous research had looked at people in the s, but "diets have changed significantly since then, so our study gives a more up-to-date insight that is relevant to meat consumption today," he said in a news release.