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Should You Still Be Eating Processed Meat? Experts Weigh In.

Should You Still Be Eating Processed Meat? Experts Weigh In.


The World Health Organization announced processed meat to be in the same category as asbestos and tobacco when it comes to dangerous carcinogens.  Health and nutrition experts give their advice and let you know just how dangerous this new information is.

The World Health Organization (WHO) this week classified processed meats as, “carcinogenic to humans,” which means the consumption of products like hot dogs, sausages, ham, and bacon can cause cancer.

Processed meats are those that have been cured, salted, or smoked to preserve their shelf life and/or to add flavor. Such meats include beef, pork, and poultry. Even unprocessed red meat may have the same effects and have been categorized by WHO as “probably carcinogenic.” These types of red meats include steak, lamb, and bison.

By eating 50 grams of processed meat per day (approximately the amount found in two slices of luncheon meat), the cancer risk can soar by 18%, although the possibility of getting cancer this way is fairly miniscule overall.

The WHO now puts processed meats in the same class with tobacco smoking and inhalation of asbestos, although this does not mean the threat is on the same level – smoking and asbestos are far more dangerous to humans. The reasoning behind the classification is the widespread consumption of processed meat. The WHO claims that approximately 34,000 deaths worldwide from cancer are due in part to a high level of processed meat in the diet. It’s not a huge fraction of the more than 8 million deaths per year from cancer, but significant enough for the WHO to report and allow regulatory agencies and governmental officials to provide recommendations to consumers worldwide.



While many are taking this new information to heart, others, specifically from some meat industry groups, are calling the information misleading while others maintain a balanced diet is the key for overall good health.

Here’s what the health experts had to say:

  1. Dr. Robyn Crouch, C.A.C.C.P. suggests, “I recommend that if people are going to eat meat, it should be grass fed and organic. Processed meats have additives that are not good for us. While it is OK to eat these meats once in a while, what we do on a consistent basis makes the biggest impact.”
  2. Integrative Health Coach, Jill Shapiro, is of a similar mindset, “I believe decreasing animal protein in the diet helps prevent cancer, and people who have cancer should increase their vegetable intake while decreasing their animal product consumption. I suggest organic, grass fed, lean protein. If you are going to consume meat, please be aware of where it is coming from to protect your body, the animals, and the environment.”
  3. Sharon Richter, RD, says, “The main culprit is sodium nitrate. I would tell parents to always read ingredient labels, avoid processed meats, and reference Wellness In the Schools Programs to make informed choices.”

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Melissa A. Kay

Author: Melissa A. Kay is a writer, editor, and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in the publishing field in the areas of family, beauty, health, employment, lifestyle, entertainment, and more. She lives in Manhattan with her loving husband and inspiring cat, and enjoys reading, fitness, cooking, music, and the amazing experiences New York has to offer. See More

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