Studies have shown that consuming processed meats could make you more susceptible to cancer – but how many rashers of bacon would you have to cut from your diet?
You may want to think twice the next time you go for a post-night-out cooked breakfast – and you definitely don’t want to upgrade to the mega, either. Results of recent studies from the World Health Organisation (WHO) warn that processed and red meats could be responsible for causing colorectal cancer.
Processed meat is normal meat that has been transformed – no, not in the slick way Optimus Prime does it – but by salting, curing, fermenting, smoking or other ways in order to enhance flavour or to preserve the meat for longer. If you are a lover of canned meat, beef jerky, sausages, corned beef, hot dogs, bacon and more, you may need to be more cautious.
The food has now been classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. In other words, this category is only used when there is sufficient evidence to suggest it causes cancer. A conclusion like this requires strong scientific evidence and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have found a pattern of studies which shows the development of cancer among humans with a processed meat diet.
Red meat is a slightly different story, as most would be pleased to know. It has been classed as Group 2 due to a lack of scientific evidence, which means that despite limited indication, it cannot be ruled out as a carcinogen. Unlike red meat, tobacco smoking is classified as Group 1, proven to be a dangerous carcinogen. The IARC groups describe the strength of the evidence, not the level of risk.
If you eat 50g of processed meat a day (a little less than a breakfast sausage and two slices of bacon) you increase your chance of colorectal cancer by 18%. However, this article is not trying to make you stop eating processed or red meats. Meat does have many health benefits, but national health recommendations advise you take caution on how many hot dogs you consume a month. As we all know, over-consumption of these kinds of foods increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
You may now be asking how to cook your meat in order to consume it safely. Cooked meat needs to be piping hot in order to eliminate any microorganisms; direct contact with a flame or hot surface – like pan-frying with healthy options such as coconut oil would ensure a healthier meat. However, the IARC does not have enough data to prove whether the way you cook meat can affect risk of illness – but if you are going to eat it, you may as well choose the healthiest option.
By Hannah Williams