- Daily intake of three rashers of bacon increases the risk of heart disease by 24%
- Apart from heart disease, processed meat intake increases the risk of prostate cancer by 19%, and death from cancer 8%
- The use of chemical preservatives and additives to improve its shelf life or taste of processed meat could be the reason behind its increased risk.
Meat forms a major part of the western diet and the intake is now increasing globally. As the demand increases, production of meat as well as processing is increased.
to prevent spoilage and improve the shelf life includes various processes like smoking, curing, salting and addition of preservatives which degrade the nutrients present in the meat. Examples of processed meat include ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, as well as hot dogs and sausages.
‘High consumption of red meat and especially processed meats like, bacon, ham, salami, sausage is associated with an increased risk of several major chronic diseases and preterm mortality.’
Roughly, 700 grams of raw red meat which includes beef, pork, lamb and goat, when cooked weighs about 500 grams.
Though red meat is rich in protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12, it is high in saturated fat. So, for an adult, the quantity or the serving size of meat be it processed or unprocessed is restricted to 70grams. But there is a warning sign again on the type of meat to be consumed as a recent study says that bacon
, the processed pork increases the risk of major chronic diseases.
Risk of Heart Disease
Eating three rashers of bacon a day could raise the risk of dying from heart disease by 24%. Twice as much unprocessed red meat or 100g a day raised the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 15 percent and stroke by 11%.
Processed red meats contain chemicals such as nitrite preservatives that generate N-nitroso compounds in the gut.
Risk of Cancer
As meat processing involves a lot of heating, chemical changes occur within the meat, forming compounds which can cause cancer. Hemoglobin present in red meat contains heme or the iron which breaks down and forms heterocyclic compounds. These compounds have been found to damage the cells that line the bowel, causing bowel cancer.
The World Health Organization pointed out that bacon,sausages and ham were among most carcinogenic substances and ranked them along with cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic.
Eating 50grams of bacon a day
- Increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19 percent
- Bowel cancer by nine percent
- Breast cancer and prostate tumor by four percent
- Colorectal cancer by 18 percent
Studies also show that people who eat a lot of red meat tend to eat fewer plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains so they benefit less from their cancer-protective properties.
Keeping in mind that high consumption of red meat and especially processed meat is associated with the increased risk of several major chronic diseases and preterm mortality, it is wise to eat a well-balanced diet. Healthy living is all about moderation so include a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains along with poultry and lean meat.
Adopt few easy ways to eat less red meat and reduce using processed meat:
- Replace a portion of meat in the diet with beans or pulses.
- Try lean cuts of chicken, meat instead of bacon, salami.
- Every week, for a day or two, keep it red-meat free.