Processed meat is a carcinogen.
Did you know that?
The announcement was issued in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is a World Health Organization (WHO) group. Even though it’s old news, I had never heard this message. I first discovered it after watching What the Health on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.
Q: What’s a carcinogen?
A: A carcinogen is a substance capable of changing the DNA of your cells, thereby causing cancer.
It’s important to note that What the Health gets some of its facts wrong, but here is the most important fact that the documentary gets right:
Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and deli meat have been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.
Other Group 1 carcinogens include cigarettes and asbestos. However, it’s important to know that the Class 1 designation is not a reflection on how likely you are to get cancer from a substance. Instead, it indicates the strength of the scientific evidence about the substance being carcinogenic. To demonstrate this, it is helpful to know that there are an estimated 1 million deaths per year from smoking compared to 34,000 deaths annually due to high consumption of processed meats. That being said, processed meats have been proven to cause colorectal cancer and I sure wouldn’t want to be one of the 34,000 people who die from that this year.
Q: What is a Group 1 carcinogen?
A: To be designated a Group 1 carcinogen, there must be convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer based on epidemiological studies in exposed humans.
So, how risky is it to consume processed meat?
As a bacon lover, I desperately needed to know the answer to this question. I’m sad to say that the answer is terrifying. For every 50 grams of processed meat that you eat daily, you are increasing your risk of colorectal cancer by approximately 18%.
Q: How much is 50 grams?
A: 50 grams is equal to 0.11 pounds.
It’s probably too late to do anything about it now, right?
Not necessarily. What the Health promotes research that shows that you can cure cancer by eating a vegan diet. Many nutritionists and epidemiologists who were not featured in the documentary have agreed with or conducted studies that support this hypothesis. That’s right, a vegan diet can help your body’s cells heal and reverse the effects of carcinogens.
Q: What do vegans eat?
A: Vegans eat a plant-based diet. This means that vegans do not eat meat or animal byproducts such as cheese and milk.
It’s no coincidence that studies supporting this information are highly contested by lobbyists (did you know that people are lobbying about what information we receive about our food?), in part because companies like Tyson (the world’s second-largest processor of pork, beef, and chicken) are sponsors of the organizations that are supposed to make our health their primary concern – organizations like the American Cancer Society. It is very interesting that organizations like the ACS have articles buried in their archives about the topic of processed meat being classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, but then choose not to feature this information in the Eat Healthy and Be Active section, which is a subset of their Reduce Your Cancer Risk section.
Yes. Vegan. Seriously.
Give it a try for a month and see how you do. You can suffer through anything for a month, right?
For someone like me (or perhaps someone like you), who was raised on meat and dairy and loves both, veganism is truly an experiment in eating to live instead of living to eat. Will you join me in trying it out? After all, it’s got to better than colorectal cancer, right?
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This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Coincidence