Does bacon cause cancer?
Cancer and bacon – 2 words breakfast lovers won’t want to hear.
It’s true that bacon does contain things that may not be best for the human body to consume but what are these things?
Processed or not, as meat cooks chemicals found inside the meat can form heterocylic amines or HCA’s, plus polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – PAH’s and advanced glycation end products – AGE’s.
These compounds are fine on their own but when consumed they breakdown and mess with our colonic DNA which may cause colorectal cancer.
So the WHO has since added processed meats to a list of group “one” carcinogen’s, meaning: they definitely cause cancer.
But is bacon processed meat? Unlike some Paleo diet people will tell you, slicing does not count as processing, but in the case of cutting bits of pork into strips, bacon is probably the most processed meat on the planet as it involves firstly drying and then salting or smoking.
Processed meat is mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb muscle, horse and goat which has been transformed due salting, curing, smoking, fermentation or other processes to enhance flavor or extend the shelf life.
Unfortunately for sausage lovers, carcinogenic chemicals like those PAH’s can be created during this processing and so can N-Nitroso compounds which are some of the most carcinogenic compounds on the planet and usually form when meat is exposed to nitrates and nitrogen oxides.
However the WHO has known about nitrates and nitrogen oxides for 50 plus years and on the one hand they say an increase of 50mg a day can increase risk of cancer buy 18% while they also admit that the evidence in this matter is still slight.
Humans for thousands of years have long been cooking red meat which adds carcinogens to the body but our ancient ancestors didn’t live long enough to develop cancer from these diets, yet now according to a 28 year long archives of internal medical study published in 2012 by WHO, research shows that people who eat more red meat die younger from cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
Note: Red meat was also added to the WHO’s list of cancer causing carcinogens, but to group 2A, which means they probably cause cancer, thus there is a distinction here between processed meat and red meat.
Processed meat is any meat that has been altered from its natural state with salts or additives and red meat (which does include pork) is as stated – mammalian meat that hasn’t been altered and therefore should not be included.
As people strive to live longer into their 70’s and 80’s, the easiest way is to reduce eating processed meats and leaving a few days free a week of meat will help you introduce otherwise hopefully healthier foods into your diet.
Vegetarians shouldn’t rejoice too much though as meat is still a great source of Vitamin B, minerals, iron and zinc and eating non-processed meat is still recommended, just not every day, plus it may be possible to buy uncured, unsalted or unsmoked bacon so as to reduce carcinogen intake when grilled.
So why do governments not step in?
Arguably the one reason why government’s won’t push to fight this health epidemic and introduce health warnings on processed meat products like you see on cigarettes is that the meat industry is such a powerful part of [in this case of] the US economy as the meat industry is estimated to generate one trillion dollars each year, roughly 6% of US GDP and on a side note, worldwide, livestock used for meat is actually more responsible for greenhouse emissions than cars.
An excellent vid on how powerful the meat industry really is: