Eating Processed Meats – what are the health implications?

October 29th 2015
By: Melanie Hollidge
Eating Processed Meats – what are the health implications?

Media coverage over the past week about processed meats such as hams, bacon, sausages and salami causing bowel cancer has left many of us confused about the risk implications behind eating these types of foods.
So what are processed meats?
These are the type of meats that have been either modified to extend their shelf life or have been altered by either smoking, curing, adding salt or preservatives.
The World Health Organisation, WHO has classed the following meats as being the largest causes of bowel cancer – sausages, hot dogs, bacon and salami followed by possibly consuming pork, beef and lamb.
However Dr Krutt Straif from WHO told the BBC:  'For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.'
Wading through the vast amount of media coverage this week we came across this article in The Guardian – ‘Meat and Tobacco: the difference between the risk and strength of evidence.’ It covers the fact that although there has been links between bowel cancer and processed meats, the risks are still considerably lower than getting smoking from cancer. Much lower.
They use this example: Tobacco V’s meat issued by Cancer Research UK
Cancer caused by tobacco - 86% of all lung cancers –19% of all cancers.
If we compare that to eating meat – 21% of all bowel cancers –3% of all cancers.
Looking at the above statistics it gives us a much better gauge to the possible health risks of eating meat. It is estimated that there are 34,000 deaths from cancer each year which could be caused by eating meat. In contrast there are one million deaths per year from smoking and 600,000 from alcohol related diseases.
Whether you decide to avoid eating processed is a personal choice, however as most food experts have stated if you have a healthy varied diet, with fresh vegetables, fruit and so forth for 80% of the time, you can have a little of what you fancy for the other 20%, then this should help you to retain a healthy lifestyle.
Source: The Guardian