The World Health Organization has decided to put processed meat and red meat on the list of carcinogenic substances. But they do not recommend to completely stop eating it. Their advice: eat it in moderation.
The recommendations of the World Health Organization are not surprising, since warnings had been given off earlier that processed meat and red meat may be carcinogenic.
Now, the WHO has put them on a list of carcinogenic substances, which also includes plutonium, tobacco, asbestos and carbon emissions of diesel vehicles. An important fact: not all of the substances in the list are equally carcinogenic. Eating bacon, for example, does not have the same effect as smoking.
In the new report, the WHO claims that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Red meat is also surmised to be carcinogenic, although there is only limited evidence to sustain this.
In the same report, the WHO also points out that eating red meat has positive effects on health as well. Red meat for instance contains iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
Therefore, it is recommended to eat red meat and processed meat in moderation, instead of completely giving up on them. The risk of obtaining colorectal cancer by eating processed meat remains small, but does increase the more one eats of it. A healthy and balanced diet is therefore the key.
What is processed meat?
Processed meat is meat that has been processed to extend its shelf life or to improve its taste. This can be achieved for instance by smoking it or by adding salt or preservatives. Those additions are exactly what can increase the risk of cancer.
The Stichting tegen Kanker, a Belgian organization that funds cancer research and aids people and families stricken by cancer, responds positively to the recommendations of the WHO and recommends people to not eat more than 500 grams of red meat per week. The organization also emphasizes the importance of sufficient exercise.