Below is a video we came across from BuzzFeed that outlines several disturbing facts about processed meat. Processed meat usually means anything more manipulated than cut or ground. This includes most lunch-meats found in the deli, or anything that has a casing or is in sausage form. It also includes anything smoked or cured, like bacon. Processed refers to meats that are preserved by curing, salting, or adding chemicals. Again, we are looking at ham, bacon, corned beef, salami, bologna, pastrami, hot dogs, burgers, sausages, etc.
It’s no secret that processed meats are extremely bad for you. Despite this fact, the majority of North Americans continue to consume them at an alarming rate, and the meat industry has fought back against critics, emphasizing that there is not enough evidence to claim that their products are unhealthy.
One study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, led by Professor Sabine Rohrmann from the University of Zurich, found that in 10 European countries, including the UK, the heaviest consumers of processed meat were 44% more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those who ate very little. The study found that high levels of consumption of processed meats increased the risk of death from heart disease by an alarming 72%, and cancer by 11%. (source)
The World Cancer Research Fund has also made the health risks of processed meat quite clear. They found that consuming bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami, and sausages increased the risks of bowel cancer, and that’s if someone ate just one sausage a day. To be precise, eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily, which is about one sausage, or just 3 pieces of bacon, raises the likelihood of cancer by a fifth. (source)(source)
Other studies have found that processed meats increase your risk of colon cancer by 50 percent (source)(source), bladder cancer by 59 percent (source)(source), stomach cancer by 38 percent (source)(source), and pancreatic cancer by 67 percent (source)(source). It also increases the chances of diabetes by 50 percent, and it can lower your lung function and increase your risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).(source)
The list literally goes on and on, with studies examining the same correlations over and over again. Processed meat is clearly bad for you, and the human body does not seem to be designed to handle it that well.
One of the biggest problems regarding processed meats are the nitrates that are added as preservatives. The nitrates found in these meats are often converted into what are called nitrosamines, which have been highly associated with various cancers. Despite this fact, they are still heavily marketed, and to combat that problem the USDA requires adding ascorbic acid or erythoribic acid to bacon cure as it helps to reduce the formation of nitrosamines. Think about that for a moment…
Furthermore, meat cooked at high temperatures (like many processed meats) can also contain several different kinds of HCAs, these are heterocyclic amines, and they are also linked to cancer.
How To Make Healthier Choices
There are several things you can do to make healthier choices. One would be to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet. If you have suffered from chronic illness, and eat lots of meat and processed meats, a vegetarian diet is something you could consider.
“Studies are confirming the health benefits of meat-free eating. Nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses.” – Harvard Medical School (source)
For example, the American Dietetic Association weighed in with a position paper, concluding that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 2009) (source)
These diseases include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more.
If you would like to continue to eat meat, it’s best to choose organic meats that are grass-fed or free-range. It’s best to look for meat with no nitrates, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or any artificial flavoring or coloring.
You could purchase from small, local farms or find a source where you are sure that the animals have been allowed to thrive in their natural habitat.
Although these are better options health wise, one day (me personally) I would like to see the killing of animals for food completely abolished. I had trouble mentioning it in this article, but I am trying to be fair and include meat eaters here.
Hopefully this information is helpful, and if you do eat a lot of processed meats and prefer to be healthy, maybe it’s time to consider a change?