A Little Cancer With Your Corned Beef Sandwich?

Healthy Living

January 10, 2016

New Study Puts Processed Meats in Same Category as Smoking

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released a study which stated that processed meats can increase your chances of getting colorectal cancer by as much as 18 percent. The term processed meats is referring to meat that is processed by means of curing, salting, smoking, fermentation and other chemical treatments and include; bacon, ham, sausage, salami, hot dogs, corned beef, and prepackaged cold cuts. It also stated that red meat (unprocessed) is classified as “probably carcinogenic” but also said it still has nutritional value. The beef industry is balking at their findings of course with claims that the data has been skewed in such a way as to ensure the outcome they desired, so what is the truth here?

What The Science Says

Much of the research on the link between red meat consumption and cancer is not new and has been compiling for some time from various studies. But the best study and most complete for combining and analyzing the results from all the data came from a study by researchers at the World Cancer Research Fund in 2011. Researchers put the data into categories based on who consumed the most red and processed meats and who ate the least. The results showed that there was approximately an 18 percent increase in the incidence of developing colorectal cancer than in those who ate less processed red meat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated there are approximately 34,000 deaths per year in the entire world they are citing as related to diets with high consumption of processed red meats. Those figures hardly compare with the worldwide number of cancer deaths of 8.2 million for 2012, reported by the WHO. Hence, much of the controversy stems from the data, particularly when you consider that there are many factors that can influence these studies such as age, sex, personal habits, and other factors.

Weighing Your Risks

Of course the beef industry is disputing the report by WHO, calling it misleading and biased. But one must consider the announcement by WHO can have a serious impact on the beef and cattle industry as the published findings can carry great weight with policy making, and government regulations across the world.

What can be concluded from the findings is that having an occasional corned beef sandwich on rye or steak dinner a couple of times a week likely poses very little increased risk, but which you must weigh by your own personal health situation. To help you better understand what the numbers mean lets use the UK as an example. The WCRF’s analysis indicates that of every 1000 people consuming the larger amounts of processed and red meat it’s possible that 66 of the 1000 to develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. This amounted to ten more people than those who were in the group of those who ate less processed red meat, whom of which about 56 out of 1000 will develop bowel cancer.

What You Can Do To Lower Your Risks

If your daily diet consists of a lot of red or processed meats and you are concerned but don’t want to stop eating red meat altogether here are some suggestions:

  • Eat Smaller Portions – If your breakfast consists of eggs, 2 slices of bacon and two sausage links or patties reduce the meat in half (1 slice of bacon and 1 sausage).
  • Add Vegetables or Beans – When making meat sauce, tacos, or even burgers you can consume less red meat by bulking it up with beans or veggies.
  • Eat More Chicken and Fish – Spread out your daily consumption and substitute chicken or fish for one or more of your daily meals.
  • Be More Aware – Keep track of how much meat you are consuming until it becomes a part of your daily routine, many people don’t realize how much meat they are consuming.
  • Try To Keep Your Consumption Amount to 70g – These are new recommended daily guidelines, but some examples are two slices of ham equals 50g, a slice of bacon has 25g, and a sausage contains 30g. The nutritional charts are very helpful in trying to figure out how each food stacks up, simply look up the type of food you’re considering.
  • Keep It Simple – Just simply try to eat a healthy well balanced diet and you should do fine. Moderation is always best.