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Processed and red meat: What are the cancer risks?

I recently posted a tweet about the link between red meat (and especially processed meats) and cancer.

From the feedback I received, I realized that many people are not aware of the potential dangers of red meat. There also seems to be confusion about what is red meat and what is not. And many people wanted to references to verify that meat really is linked to cancer. At the bottom of this article, I will be sharing some links that you can use to access more information.

However, what most people probably don’t know is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently came out and stated that processed meats (which include sausages, frankfurters, bacon, ham, tinned beef and cured meats) cause cancer. WHO is always very careful in the wording they use especially when it comes to making conclusions on things that cause disease.

After analysis of studies and different literature, WHO stated that red meat has a positive association with some types of cancer, but processed meat is categorized as something that is definitely known to cause cancer. Processed meat is actually put in the same category as tobacco smoking and asbestos. Consumption of processed meat was classified as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic after the IARC Working Group – comprised of 22 scientists from ten countries – evaluated over 800 studies. That is how harmful it can be.

It is therefore important that people become aware of this and begin to make better choices regarding their red meat and processed meat consumption.

Because, children are still growing and have rapidly dividing cells, they are at a significantly higher risk of being affected by the carcinogenic effects of these meats. We should not and cannot continue to feed these harmful substances to our children and simply hope that they will not be affected. We are seeing rapid increases in the number of children developing cancer and other chronic diseases affecting the body’s immune systems. Now that we know that processed meats are carcinogenic, is it wise to continue to give them to your children or yourselves simply because you enjoy their taste?

I strongly recommend that going forward; we should not buy and have sausages in our homes. Please do not give sausages to your children at home and please don’t pack them as a snack to take to school. Such practices could be harming your child.

I hope all schools would be informed about the harmful effects of processed meats and actively discourage parents from packing them as snacks.

However, I do understand that our children love these foods, and they see them as treats, but we need to rise above the temporary pleasure that comes from eating sausages and other processed meats and instead start educating our children about their harmful effects and choosing healthier alternatives.

Many parents have asked me whether it is ok to reduce the number or amount of processed meats rather than stopping altogether. A mother once asked me whether it was ok to reduce the number of sausages she fed her child from about six a week to only two sausages a week. My response is that two sausages a week will pose less harm than 6. I think that eating one sausage once in a while like at a party, say once a month may be acceptable but I would rather we cut them out completely.

But given that sausages are in the same category as smoking tobacco from cigarettes, you need to ask yourself whether it would be acceptable for your child to smoke two rather than six cigarettes per day.

The reason I have put a lot of emphasis on children is that they are more vulnerable than adults but more so because they get these foods from parents, uncles, aunts, friends and even sometimes schools. Because they don’t always decide what they eat, they could be unfortunate victims. Adults, on the other hand, choose what they eat and so have the power in their own hands.

I would also like to mention that it is thought that eating processed meats during pregnancy, also increases the risk of cancer to the child later in life. Some epidemiologic studies suggest that maternal consumption of cured meat during pregnancy may increase risk of brain tumors in offspring¹

What is now quite clear, is that red meat and processed meats can have an adverse impact on our health and that we should start to make healthier food choices in our lives to reduce the risk for chronic diseases like cancer.

My recommendation is that we keep all our animal product consumption to less than 10 percent of our diet and preferably should be eaten no more than twice a week (for all types of animal products combined). A predominantly plant based diet is really the way to go as it not only reduces the amount of animal products you consume, but also ensures you get an abundance of healing and health promoting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients.

I would like to recommend that we all take a few minutes to review this Q & A on the carcinogenicity of red meat that was published in October 2015 on the World Health Organisation website. It has so much useful information and clarifies a lot of information that may not be very clear. Click here to read it.

I really hope that this article has shed some light on this important issue and has at the very least increased your awareness on the potential dangers of red meat consumption.

If you have found this article useful, please share it with friends and family. The more people that hear about this, the more our overall health shall improve.

I would like to hear from you what your thoughts are.

If we are not already connected on Twitter, you can follow me on twitter @paulkasenene or click on this link

Wishing you great health and happiness.

Further reading



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