Are the Dangers Real?
By Carleton Rivers, MS, RDN, LD
Processed and red meats are no stranger to the dietary spotlight. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines note an association between increased consumption of processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon and increased risk of cardiovascular disease (due to saturated fat and sodium) and colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society has also warned about the dangers of consuming too much red and processed meats as it relates to cancer.
In October 2015, a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was published by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the consumption of processed meats and its relation to cancer. The IARC report was developed by 22 scientists from 10 different countries who reviewed over 800 epidemiological studies relating to meat and cancer. Researchers concluded that processed meat should be classified as "carcinogenic to humans" and red meat as "probably carcinogenic." Although meat and cancer risk have been linked for a number of years, these new classifications bring this topic to the forefront of nutrition news.
Defining Processed and Red Meats
- Processed meats are meats that have been transformed through processes like salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other methods that enhance flavor or help to preserve the meat (Bouvard, 2015).
- Common processed meats include lunch meat, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, beef jerky and canned beef.
- Red meats are unprocessed mammalian meats like beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, or goat meat.
Reducing Your Risk
- Limit the amount of red meat you consume. Red meat can be beneficial to your health in moderate amounts because it is a good source of essential nutrients like amino acids, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
- Choose lean cuts of red meat such as eye of round roast or steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, and top sirloin steak.
- Limit high-temperature cooking methods for meat such as barbecuing, pan-frying, or grilling.
- Limit the amount of processed meat you consume.
Bouvard V, Loomis D, Guyton K, et al. Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat [published online October 29, 2015]. The Lancet. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(15)00444-1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470204515004441