Is Processed Meat the New Tobacco?

While you are reading these lines, processed meat is probably being ostracized in hundreds of articles all over the Internet. A simple search for “processed meat cancer” generates no less than 2,210, 000 results from child care concern websites to human rights blogs.

The frenzy is for a good cause, though. Numerous studies have shown that there is a link between certain types of meat and some forms of cancers, especially bowel cancer. And, considering that, according to one study, in 2015 1 in 14 men and 1 in 16 women in Canada were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, these studies made many rethink their lifestyle and their choices.



Yes, processed meat can be bad for you, but some outlets when as far as claiming that eating a burger is as bad as smoking cigarettes. The reality, though, is different, and this article’s purpose is to show you why processed meat isn’t the new tobacco.

The Actual Cancer Risk Is Rather Small

According to the World Health Organization, processed meats, alongside with alcoholic beverages, solar radiation and smoking are carcinogenic to humans. But, from this to saying the bacon is as dangerous as tobacco is a long road.

In fact, World Health Organization’s study does not put the equal sign between consumption of processed meats and colorectal cancer. What the study actually says is that the consumption of 50 grams of processed meat increases a person’s risk of colorectal cancer with 18%. And since the average Canadian’s risk of developing colorectal cancer is 2.4%, this means that eating 50 grams of bacon every day would rise that risk to 2.83%. While it’s true that Canadians are meat consumers, eating 74 grams per day, they only eat 22 grams per day of processed red meat.

You Can’t Compare Red Meat with Cigarettes

Studies say that smoking a pack of cigarettes each day makes you 23 times more likely to get lung cancer and die because of it than those who do not smoke. Another study from the Circulation Journal revealed that even smoking just between one and four cigarettes can make you three times more vulnerable to, well… death.

In the cancer deaths pie chart, cigarette smoking takes 30 percent. This translates into “My name is lung cancer; and alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS probably won’t kill you, but I will.”

Now think if you can say the same about meat, and judge for yourself whether the comparison is a bit too far stretched or not.

Kim Larson, dietitian nutritionist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said for the Huffington Post that this type of approach not only has no scientific base, but it promotes fear and misinterpretation.

No, Processed Meat Is Not Good for You, But Is Definitely Not Tobacco

No one is claiming that processed meat is healthy. Just because you won’t necessarily get cancer from processed meat consumption, it does not mean that you should indulge yourself on this food category too much. Processed meats are high in sodium, and they are linked to high risks of heart disease and diabetes. So being careful to how often and how much meat you are eating is recommended.

One of the theories that try to explain the link between processed meat and cancer states that nitrate, a preservative, could form some carcinogenic compounds in the body. Another points out that when cooked at high temperatures, the carcinogens form – smoking, grilling, roasting.

What you need to keep in mind is that moderation is the key – quantity and the way you cook the meat must be taken into consideration. Marinating the meat might be a better option since it could raise a barrier between the meat and the grill. Also, trying to grill less frequently, or using low-temperature cooking are all good ways of choosing alternatives.

Cancer has a lot of aspects, and it is influenced by an enormous number of factors, like weight, lifestyle, exercising and other exposures, so everything must be taken into consideration. Always try to be skeptical when information is being released on the internet and use common sense in processing what you hear.

Misinformation can happen to anyone, but you should be able to distinguish between real, useful information and mere speculation.

This is a guest post written by

Bruce Bohunicky – 

Worked at Kildonan Crossing Dental

Bruce Bohunicky

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