So, it’s not exactly a surprise that processed meats aren’t healthy, they may also cause cancer. They’re high in saturated fats and are high in calories. Add on the high counts of sodium, cholesterol and heartburn, it’s pretty obvious that deli meats, sausage, bacon et al aren’t good for your body, health or your waistline. But according to a new World Health Organization announcement on October 29, 2015, that eating less processed meats can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

The announcement was based on a monograph released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the WHO, which was published in research journal The Lancet Oncology just a few days before the official WHO response. The long, detailed report compiled the research of 22 scientists from 10 countries and more than 800 studies at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, that evaluated the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. So it’s pretty big news here.

Here’s What You Need to Know from the IARC’s Announcement:

  • Red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans based on limited but strong evidence, and it may be linked to colorectal cancer, as well as pancreatic and prostate cancers.
  • Processed meat is carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence and is linked colorectal cancer.
  • The experts suggests that for each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by increases 18 percent.
  • This is the most influential evidence came from large prospective cohort studies conducted over the past 20 years.
  • Red meat does has nutritional value, such as protein and iron. So it is important to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat.

So how what we’re left with is don’t eat it, but eat it. And there are the high-protein diets, like Paleo, Atkins, Dukan, South Beach, and the list goes on, that tout the healthy weight benefits of eating meat. But is a slimmer physique worth risking cancer? And it comes all down to commonsense and balance. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends an upper limit of 500 grams (cooked weight) per week of red meat, including beef, pork and lamb. As for processed meats like ham, bacon and salami, have as little as possible. So if you do enjoy a baseball game dog or pepperoni on your pizza, think of it as a treat – not as a source of protein.

The WHO also Offers More Info on Eating and Not Eating Red Meat and Processed Meats

  • Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.
  • Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Examples include hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef and beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.
  • Processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos, but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.
  • Eating meat has known health benefits. Many national health recommendations advise people to limit intake of processed meat and red meat, which are linked to increased risks of death from heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
  • A few studies have investigated the cancer risks associated with different types of red meat, such as beef and pork, and with different kinds of processed meats, like ham and hot dogs. However, there is not enough information to say whether higher or lower cancer risks are related to eating any particular type of red meat or processed meat.
  • Different preservation methods could result in the formation of carcinogens (e.g. N-nitroso compounds), but whether and how much this contributes to the cancer risk is unknown.
  • Vegetarian diets and diets that include meat have different advantages and disadvantages for health. However, this evaluation did not directly compare health risks in vegetarians and people who eat meat. That type of comparison is difficult because these groups can be different in other ways besides their consumption of meat.


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