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h Warning Explained: How Processed Meat Is Linked to Cancer

Sausages and hot dogs, on a grill



(Image credit: Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock.com)

Monday was a rough day for bacon lovers, as well as for fans of hot dogs, sausage and salami. That’s when a report by a cancer research group from the World Health Organization announced that there was sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies to show that eating processed meat can cause colorectal cancer in people.

The researchers also classified processed meat as a human carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. 

The news for people who eat steaks and other unprocessed red meat was only slightly better. After reviewing data from more than 800 studies that looked at the link between the consumption of red meat or processed meat and the risk of certain cancers, the panel of 22 scientists categorized red meat as probably causing cancer.

The group also concluded there was strong, but still limited, evidence of an association between eating red meat and colorectal cancer. 

In addition, the data showed a connection between eating processed meat and an increased risk of developing stomach cancer, as well as a positive link between red meat and cancers of the pancreas and prostate, according to the findings, published online (Oct. 26) in the journal Lancet Oncology. But the evidence for these associations was not as strong as the evidence found for colorectal cancer. [Cancer-Fighting Diet: 6 Tips to Reduce Your Risk]

The WHO said its findings were a scientific evaluation of the evidence, rather than a set of recommendations about what people should or should not be eating. 

Because the WHO findings received widespread media attention and represented a definitive health warning about the dangers of processed meat, it left many consumers wondering what to do, how to pack their lunches and whether everyone needed to become a vegetarian.

In addition, many consumers were confused about which foods fell into the categories of processed and red meats, which compounds in these foods seemed to promote cancer, or how much of these meats, if any, were safe to include in a person’s diet.  

For answers to these and other pressing questions, Live Science turned to two experts on nutrition and cancer prevention.

Cancer-promoting compounds

The WHO data showed that a person who eats a little bit less than 2 ounces of processed meat a day, which is equal to one small hot dog or about two slices of salami, is 18 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer than someone who eats none, said Alice Bender, a registered dietitian and the associate director of nutrition programs at the American Institute for Cancer Research. AICR is a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., that supports research on diet, nutrition and cancer prevention, and was not involved in the WHO report.

Bender said that processed meat is any meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding chemical preservatives.

This puts most of the cold cuts at the supermarket deli counter — such as ham, pastrami, turkey and bologna — into this category, along with bacon, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, pepperoni, beef jerky as well as canned meat, like Spam. Turkey bacon and turkey sausage are also processed meat, as are smoked turkey and smoked chicken, Bender said.

Red meat includes beef, pork, veal and lamb, and also horse, goat and mutton (meat from sheep), although these are rarely consumed in the United States.

Although research has not yet revealed exactly why diets high in processed meat and red meat increase the risk of colon cancer, the WHO report has identified a few possible culprits that may be responsible.

Some of the substances used in the smoking process to preserve meats may lead to the formation of the cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), Bender told Live Science.

Also, processing meat often involves using nitrites as preservatives to prevent bacterial growth and as coloring agents, but nitrites may form compounds called N-nitroso compounds. Red meat has a lot of iron in a form called heme iron, which may also stimulate the production of N-nitroso compounds in the gut. The compounds have been found to cause cancer in animal studies, Bender said.

Cooking methods may also play a role. High-temperature methods, such as grilling, frying or broiling, which might be used with beef or pork, can form more cancer-promoting chemicals, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), and the char on the outside of meats can contain PAHs. [10 Do’s and Don’ts to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer]

Although the WHO report didn’t make any dietary recommendations, and the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention currently advise people in a very general way “to limit how much processed meat and red meat they eat,” the guidance from the American Institute for Cancer Research includes specific amounts of meat in its dietary recommendations.

They recommend that people avoid eating processed meat, or reserve eating it to only a few special occasions during the year, such as a hot dog at the ballpark, a sausage when tailgating and bacon on Christmas morning, Bender said.

For red meat, the AICR recommendations call for eating no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat weekly, which is an amount that doesn’t increase colon cancer risk appreciable, based on an evaluation of the evidence done for AICR by a worldwide panel of experts, Bender said. Red meat can be a source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12 in some people’s diet, she said.

Six card-deck size portions, or roughly 3-ounce servings, of red meat would fall under the recommended limit, Bender said.

Reducing risk

The conclusions reached by the WHO scientific panel come as no surprise, said Dr. Tim Byers, a professor of preventive medicine at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.  Byers previously served on two expert review committees — one for the World Cancer Research Fund, and one for the American Cancer Society. 

He said that both those groups reviewed basically the same set of evidence and came to similar conclusions.

“The data was quite clear from these analyses that eating processed meat can increase colon cancer risk, and that red meat can also increase the risk, but to a lesser extent,” Byers told Live Science. However, the size of the risk that comes with eating processed meat is relatively small in relation to colon cancer, and it would have about the same size impact on the risk for the disease as three other known colon cancer risk factors — being overweight, being physically sedentary or not eating enough fruits and vegetables, he said.

If people decide on the basis of the WHO report to stop eating red meat, this would reduce their risk for colon cancer to some extent, Byers said. In contrast, undergoing colonoscopy screenings has a huge effect on reducing the risk of colon cancer, he said.

Editor’s note: A correction was made to this article on Oct. 31. The article originally stated that the AICR was involved in writing the new report, but it was not.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Cari Nierenberg has been writing about health and wellness topics for online news outlets and print publications for more than two decades. Her work has been published by Live Science, The Washington Post, WebMD, Scientific American, among others. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from Cornell University and a Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Communication from Boston University.

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  • Intro: New Health Warning Explained: How Processed Meat Is Linked to Cancer Home News (Image credit: Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock.com) Monday was a rough day for bacon lovers, as well as for fans of hot dogs, sausage and salami. That’s when a report by a cancer research group from the World Health Organization…
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Processed And Red Meat Could Cause Cancer? Your … – NPR

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Is turkey sausage considered red meat? – Foodly

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  • Sumary: Turkey bacon and turkey sausage are also processed meat, as are smoked turkey and smoked chicken, Bender said. Red meat includes beef, pork, veal and lamb, and also horse, goat and mutton (meat from…

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  • Intro: Is turkey sausage considered red meat? Turkey bacon and turkey sausage are also processed meat, as are smoked turkey and smoked chicken, Bender said. Red meat includes beef, pork, veal and lamb, and also horse, goat and mutton (meat from sheep), although these are rarely consumed in the United States….
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FAQ: Exactly what processed meat should I avoid, and other …

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6 healthy protein choices when cutting back on red meat

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Is Turkey Sausage Actually Healthy? – Stack.com

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Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer – NHS

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Frequently Asked Questions About is turkey sausage considered red meat

If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic is turkey sausage considered red meat, then this section may help you solve it.

Does turkey count as red meat?

In general, meat from mammals like cows and calves, sheep, lamb, and pigs is referred to as “red meat,” whereas meat from rabbits, chickens, and turkeys is referred to as “white meat.”

Turkey sausage: Is it better for you?

Yes, you can, just look at the numbers: turkey and chicken sausage have 140-160 calories and 7-10 grams of fat for the same amount, compared to 290-455 calories and 23-38 grams of fat per link in pork sausage.

What kind of meat isn’t red meat?

Beef, pork, lamb, venison, and boar are examples of non-fowl mammals that produce red meat, which is named as such because it is red when it is raw. Chicken, turkey, and other meats from fowl (birds) are classified as white meat because they turn white when cooked.

Is sausage considered red meat?

b>Processed meat/b> is meat that has been cured, salted, smoked, or otherwise preserved in some way, such as bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham, salami, and pepperoni. Red meat is any meat that is a dark red color before it is cooked, such as beef and lamb. Pork is also classified as a red meat.

Can turkey bacon be considered red meat?

Despite the fact that turkey bacon is not red meat, it is processed meat, so it is best to limit your intake of this food as well.

Does eating turkey sausage make you tense?

Fans of turkey sausage, turkey bacon and other processed varieties need to check the labels. “Generally, all processed meat products, including turkey, contribute a significant amount of sodium,” she said. Higher sodium contributes to high blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular events.

Is turkey sausage safe to eat every day?

The majority of turkey sausages contain one or two grams of saturated fat per serving, making including them in your daily diet manageable for a 2,000 calorie diet, which translates to a limit of 13 grams of saturated fat per day.

Compared to bacon, is turkey sausage healthier?

Two slices of center-cut bacon have fewer calories and fat than a typical serving of turkey breakfast sausage, and they also have 267 milligrams less sodium and a lot less cholesterol.

What occurs if you stop eating red meat?

Energy Loss: The body absorbs more iron from meat than other foods, but it’s not your only option. If you cut meat out of your diet, you might feel tired and weak because you’re missing an important source of protein and iron, both of which give you energy.

What kind of red meat is the healthiest to eat?

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association’s top five lean cuts are: eye of round (1.4 g saturated fat, 4 g total fat); sirloin tip side steak (1.6 g saturated fat, 4.1 g total fat); and top round roast and steak (1.6 g saturated fat, 4.6 g total fat). Stick with round, sirloin, or loin.

Which sausage is the healthiest to consume?

You can also make your own sausage to get the freshest variety without any harmful additives or high-fat meat if you want to eat sausage frequently, so that you can choose healthier varieties like those made with chicken or turkey.

Turkey sausage or bacon: which is healthier?

Bacon: While turkey sausage has 7 grams of fat, 522 milligrams of sodium, and 67 milligrams of cholesterol, center-cut bacon has only 4.5 grams of fat, 255 milligrams of sodium, and 12 milligrams of cholesterol per two slices, for a total of 57 calories.

What meat ranks as the best choice for health?

White Meat Chicken is a fantastic source of iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins. Skinless, boneless chicken breast is one of only two meat cuts from land animals that the National Institute of Health considers to be a “very lean” source of protein.

What kind of meat ought I to eat every day?

Meats like chicken, pork, lamb, and beef are all rich in protein. Red meat gives us iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Meat is one of the main sources of vitamin B12 in the diet. A healthy balanced diet can include protein from meat, as well as from fish and eggs or non-animal sources like beans and pulses.

What two foods will keep you alive?

When stored properly, rice has a shelf life of over 10 years and can be purchased in large quantities at very low prices…. Beans have a well-deserved reputation as a survival food due to their full nutritional profile.

Which fruits should never be combined?

For better digestion, try to avoid mixing acidic fruits like grapefruits and strawberries, or sub-acidic foods like apples, pomegranates, and peaches, with sweet fruits like bananas and raisins. For the same reason, you shouldn’t mix guavas and bananas.

What is the one dish you could live off of forever?

Cecil Adams, the former columnist, claims that he and his assistant ran the numbers and discovered that a lot of potatoes and milk would provide you with the majority of what you require, with the exception of the mineral molybdenum, which can be obtained in sufficient quantities by consuming a small amount of oatmeal.

What food ranks as the world’s healthiest at number one?

The sour fruit is an alkalizing powerfood, has potent anti-inflammatory properties, and may even help to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Lemons have long been considered the world’s healthiest food.

What fruit ought to you consume every day?

You should consume three servings of fruit each day as part of a healthy diet because fruit improves heart health, reduces inflammation, and strengthens the immune system. Some of the healthiest fruits include pineapple, apples, blueberries, and mangos.

Cucumbers: Are they healthy?

Eating cucumbers may result in many potential health benefits, including weight loss, balanced hydration, digestive regularity, and lower blood sugar levels. Cucumbers are low in calories but contain many essential vitamins and minerals, as well as a high water content.

Which fruit is ideal for nighttime consumption?

The nerve messenger serotonin, which has a calming effect and can help you fall asleep more quickly, is present in small amounts in only a few fruits, including kiwis (23).

Which fruit should I have after dinner?

Consuming antioxidant-rich fruits, such as berries, grapes, kiwi, and cherries, after a substantial meal can help reduce the negative effects of free radical damage.

What uses does pineapple have?

Pineapple Health Benefits: There is some evidence that pineapple may help prevent cancer and even help fertility by enhancing the quality of sperm. The vitamins and minerals in pineapple may help shorten viral and bacterial infections and strengthen your bones.

How healthy is celery?

Celery is a fantastic source of fiber and is one of the healthiest snacks you can eat. Given how low in calories it is and how much fiber it contains, celery is a great choice for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain healthy digestion.

Are grapes healthy to eat?

Resveratrol is a key nutrient in grapes that may offer health benefits. Grapes are a good source of fiber, potassium, and a range of vitamins and other minerals. Resveratrol is a key nutrient in grapes that may offer health benefits.

Are carrots that are raw healthy?

Although raw carrot slices go well with a dip, cooked carrots are softer and easier to chew and are the “go-to” food when it comes to eating well and losing weight because the orange vegetable is low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, iron, potassium, fiber, and other nutrients.

Are cucumbers eaten raw healthy?

Cucumbers are loaded with nutrients; just one cup of cucumber slices contains 14% to 19% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, as well as vitamins B and C and minerals like copper, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.

Fresh pineapple: Is it healthy?

The nutrients and compounds found in pineapples have been linked to a number of impressive health benefits, including better digestion, a decreased risk of cancer, and relief from osteoarthritis.

What uses does celery have?

Celery is a wonderful source of phytonutrients, which have been shown to reduce instances of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, cells, blood vessels, and organs. It contains vitamin C, beta carotene, and flavonoids, but there are at least 12 additional types of antioxidant nutrients found in a single stalk.

Iceberg lettuce: Is it healthy?

Iceberg lettuce has a mild, sweet flavor and a pleasant crunch, and although it has a bad reputation for not being as nutritious as other lettuces, it is actually a great bridge food for people who don’t eat enough other vegetables.

Which lettuce is the least nutritious?

Worst: Iceberg Wedge Salad This dish lacks nutrition because iceberg lettuce has fewer vitamins and minerals than the majority of dark leafy greens.

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