Processed Meat and Cancer – What Are the Risks?

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Is eating red meat bad for you? Does red meat cause cancer? Are you wondering if it is time to go vegetarian? Don’t take any drastic measures before we clarify a few aspects:

  • Processing increases cancer risks
  • Red meat is more dangerous than white meat
  • Fish and seafood are actually healthy and safe to include in your diet.

Given the amount of conflicting information available online, you probably don’t know what to think. My honest advice is that you don’t take any information for granted. Instead, let’s look at the evidence available so far.

does meat consumption increases the risks of developing cancer-alignthoughts

Meat Processing, Red Meat and The Link to Cancer

The World Health Organization defines meat processing as meat transformation through salting, smoking, frying, fermentation, curing, and other processes meant to enhance its flavor or preserve it for longer time intervals.

They warn that some processing methods involve the use of carcinogenic substances or lead to their formation (N-nitroso compounds, polycyclic and heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).

WHO recommendations rely on the information provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer after a group of 22 IARC experts from 10 countries  reviewed

  • 800 studies on human cancer, some covering both red meat and processed meat
  • 700 epidemiological studies on red meat
  • 400 epidemiological studies on processed meat

They concluded that:

Processed meat is definitely carcinogenic

The experts found conclusive evidence that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer. The studies reviewed showed that the risk of developing cancer increased directly proportional to the number of processed meat subjects ate throughout a given time period.

Red meat is probably carcinogenic

The research available so far shows a clear link between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer but does not prove that consuming red meat actually causes cancer.

What If the World Suddenly Went Vegetarian?

The American Institute for Cancer Research confirms these conclusions as well, recommending Americans to avoid processed meat, diminish their consumption of red meat, and avoid frying and barbecuing the meat they do consume.

As far as the relationship between white meat consumption and cancer is concerned, perhaps the most representative study on the subject was published in 2003. It showed that a high intake of fried chicken with skin and fish increases breast cancer risk.

However, consuming skinless chicken and fish cooked through healthier methods has the opposite effect.

But let’s leave general recommendations aiming to keep people healthy and diminish the risks of developing cancer aside for a minute and focus on recommendations targeting cancer patients.

Top 5 Anti-Cancer Diets and Their Take on Meat

  1. The Gerson Therapy does not accept any kind of meat but uses vegetables and minerals to detoxify and strengthen the body so that it may fight and defeat cancer on its own.
  2. The Budwig Diet allows followers to consume wild-caught fish and organic chicken but with clear restrictions regarding their quantity and their processing (no frying).
  3. The Paleo Diet allows lean meats, but eliminates the harmful factor, processing, recommending followers to eat fresh, clean foods.
  4. The Ketogenic Diet determines reduces carb consumption to starve cancer and allows meats, but recommends healthy cooking methods.
  5. The Alkaline Diet replaces acidic foods with alkaline ones and categorizes meat as acidic.

As you can see, these diets either reject the consumption of meat altogether or apply considerable restrictions to the way the meat is cooked. This goes to show that meat in itself does not necessarily favor cancer, processed meat does.

This becomes most relevant when looking closely at the ketogenic diet, one of the most popular and health beneficial. It does not even eliminate processed meats, but it teaches dieters how to process meat safely and how to read labels in order to choose wisely and eliminate risks.

How Many Calories Do You Really Need and How Much Sugar Is Hiding in Your Food?

Should You Eat Processed Meat?

Whenever I think of processed meat, I remember the news about Jamie Oliver’s fight against McDonald’s pink slime burgers. Those burgers are the very incarnation of cancer-causing processed meat: poor quality meat washed in ammonia and fried in unhealthy fat.

Unfortunately, there are many similar products on the market, and a brief label-reading session in any supermarket will convince you of that.

It this is the kind of processed meat you would like to eat, then, by all means, you should not. It would mean writing your cancer diagnosis with your own hand.

However, you probably do not want to give up the foods you like, even if they involve processed meat, so how do you eliminate cancer risks?

How to Enjoy Processed Meat and Avoid Cancer?

After years of studying and trying diets that enable weight loss and diminish cancer risks, I have finally found one I can enjoy and turn into a lifestyle – the ketogenic diet. It works, and it improves your mood and general condition in ways you wouldn’t think possible. Here is what this diet has taught me and what you should learn from it:

1. Choose your meat wisely

If you want to enjoy the best taste and protect your health, buy your meat fresh and, preferably, organic.

2. Process the meat yourself or at least make sure it is processed safely

Now that everyone practically lives online, burger, sausage, salami, and pastrami recipes are easier to find than ever. Google them up and start processing – if you want to avoid ammonia, sodium glutamate, and other harmful ingredients, of course.

3. Stick with healthy cooking methods

If you have to fry, use coconut oil or fry the meat in its own fat. However, try to replace frying with roasting and steaming. You get the same delicious taste with fewer calories and health risks.

4. Don’t overdo it

Rather than eating burgers until you feel about to throw up but only once a month, consider having them once a week, but with measure and preparing them according to the recommendations above.

Conclusion – Meat Consumption and Health Risks

The risk of developing cancer increases with the quantity of processed meat, and the chemicals in its composition.

Therefore, as long as you eat it in small amounts and stay away from chemicals, you should have no reason to worry about developing cancer. To do that, source your meat from reliable sources and make its processing and cooking your job as often as possible.

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