The World Health Organization announced that red meat and processed foods are now widely recognized as cancer causing. Processed, here, means meat that has been transformed through salting, fermentation, smoking and various other processes to improve flavor. Moreover, such categorizations also extend to products treated in order to prolong their shelf lives. This includes bacon, ham, sausages, tinned meats, meat sauces and red meats themselves (beef, pork, goat and lamb).
Officials in charge of the study reference dietary advice state that consuming 50 grams of processed meat products a day can increase the risk of colon cancer by 18%. And, eating 100 grams of red meat can increase that risk by an additional 17%.
After numerous studies and research into the association between the consumption of red meat and colon cancer, the WHO revised its own research. They did so by looking into the 50 most common ingredients in Western processed products. As a result, the WHO’s 22-person strong international team of experts from 10 countries found that 40 of the products had an effect on a person’s risk of developing cancer.
Processed meat is now categorized as a group 1 substance, which is the same group that arsenic, asbestos, alcohol and tobacco belong to. And, red meat is now categorized as a group 2A substance placing it at the level that is recognized as “probably” causing colon cancer. In fact, a large number of the 34,000 lives lost to cancer around the world each year are believed to due to the regular consumption of red and processed meat.
Potassium nitrate is one of the most widely-used chemical substances applied in the process of treating meats. Industries do so to extend the shelf life of the product as well as to increase its aesthetic qualities. They use Nitrate preservatives and sodium nitrate to help prevent bacteria from spreading. However, these substances are all recognized to cause cancer. As a result, the longer one consumes such ingredients, the higher their chance of developing colon cancer.
Moreover, red meats already contain high levels of saturated fats that are closely associated with the onset of colon cancer. This is especially so when they are heat treated as this leads to the presence of heterocyclic amine (HCA) alongside polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The latter substance also occurs as a result of grilling or barbecuing foods. This is because if the fat from these meats is allowed to drip onto the coals used in cooking them, the resulting smoke produced is yet another chemical capable of causing cancer.
Lowering red meat and processed meat intake can significantly decrease the risk of developing colon cancer. Additionally, increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber is also strongly recommended. This is because fruits and vegetables aids the body’s absorption of important vitamins and nutrients as well as helps to smooth digestion. Thereby, it reduces the likelihood of constipation, another risk factor behind the onset of colon cancer. Nevertheless, if eating red meat is something that you do not want to live without, then cooking that meat by boiling or steaming instead of grilling or barbecuing will be much more beneficial to your health.
Moreover, regular exercise, sufficient rest and finding ways to relieve or prevent stress can all be highly beneficial. Such a lifestyle will ensure a healthy body, fully equipped with a strong immune system capable of protecting itself against deadly diseases like cancer.
To sum up, we simply cannot ignore official announcements such as the one made recently by this internationally respected organization, which has taken numerous worldwide studies into account. As, adhering to its advice could ensure that we steer well clear of colon cancer. In addition to following the recommendations included in the announcement, we really should not overlook the importance of attending annual health checkups. This because these appointments may enable the swift identification of a health disorder at its outset. This, thus, allows for immediate treatment to take place, and increases the chances of treatment being successful.
Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University , 2009