Maybe you should rethink putting pork on your fork. Global health authorities are issuing a new warning that bacon and other processed meats contain cancer-causing substances with the highest of five possible rankings — making them as lethal as cigarettes.
The World Health Organization is preparing to publish a report by the World Cancer Research Fund International — a leading global authority on cancer prevention research related to diet, weight, and physical activity — that strongly advises limiting the amount of processed meats in the diet to prevent cancer, according to The Telegraph
"The WCRF advises that people can reduce their bowel cancer risk by eating no more than 500 grams (cooked weight) per week of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb," the reports states.
It is expected to list processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans" — the highest of five possible rankings, the same classification as cigarettes, arsenic, asbestos, and alcohol.
The WCRF, and other health authorities, have warned for several years that there is "strong evidence" that consuming a lot of red meat can cause bowel cancer. But it now says there is "strong evidence" even small quantities of processed meats increase cancer risk.
In response to the new report, the North American Meat Institute issued a statement that said the new classification " will defy both common sense and dozens of studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer and other studies showing the many health benefits of balanced diets that include meat."
Barry Carpenter, president of the industry trade group, argued that diet isjust one "piece of the puzzle" in health and noted that meat is common to diets in Spain, Italy, and other nations with "some of the longest lifespans" in the world.
"Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by IARC found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard.’ " he added. "Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by the [WCRF] not to cause cancer.
"Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health ... Risks and benefits must be considered together before telling people what to eat, drink, drive, breathe, or where to work."
The new WHO report echoes many past studies that have shown that meat produces cancer-causing substances, called "polyaroamic hydrocabons," and that preserving it — by smoking, curing, salting, or by adding preservatives — can introduce carcinogens.
Processed meats are also often manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite, used as a color fixer to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh. The chemical can result in the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the human body.
Diets high in beef and processed meats are also linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, two other leading killers worldwide.
Last summer, the WCRF completed a detailed review of 7,000 clinical studies examining links between diet and cancer. The analysis concluded processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption.
A recent University of Hawaii study also found that processed meats increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 67 percent. Another study revealed that every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.
Food items that can include sodium nitrite: bacon, beef jerky, sausages, hot dogs, sandwich meats, frozen meals and canned soups containing meat, pasta foods with meat sauces, and products sold at public schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and theme parks.
To cut cancer risk from food, many health experts advise:
- Eat more plant-based foods, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.
- Limit consumption of red meat and processed meats.
- Avoid sweets and processed foods that contain high levels of chemicals and additives.
- Follow diets rich in healthy "fats," such as the Mediterannean diet, which is packed with olive oil, fish, vegetables, and fresh foods.
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