Hot dogs, hamburgers and bacon; what’s the harm?

The cancer arm of the World Health Organization has come forward with some serious concerns about some of Americans’ favorite foods.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, processed meat has been classified as a carcinogen, or in other words, something that causes cancer. It has also classified red meat (unprocessed) as a probable carcinogen, which is something they believe could probably causes cancer.

What is included in the term processed meat? It includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some types of deli meats. Processed meat meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. The processes involved may include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. The different types of red meat include beef, pork, lamb, and goat.

A team of 22 experts from 10 different countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach these conclusions. The findings that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. 50 grams is not a great deal of food; it is the equivalent of only about four strips of bacon or just one single hot dog. When it came to unprocessed red meat, they also found evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

The overall lifetime risk of someone developing colon cancer is 5%. To put the numbers into perspective, the increased risk from eating the amount of processed meat in the study would raise average lifetime risk from 5% to almost 6%.

The American Cancer Society and many other organizations have long recommended a diet that limits processed meat and red meat. They also encourage a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Their Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention recommend that people choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat and processed meat.

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