Red meat and processed meats or sausages are in the heart of the debate in recent years. Accused of being carcinogenic by doctors and shunned by vegetarians in the name of love of animals, but are these foods really hazardous to health? If so, how to recognize them? Find the answers in this article.
Processed meat is transformation of any meat that has undergone changes that will alter its original state in order to improve its taste and preservation. We can include in this category the sausages, hot dogs, ham, canned meats and many other varieties of meats. All these products have been subjected to smoking process, fermentation, salting or maceration.
Red meats are well known to be processed, such as the meat of pork, lamb, veal, mutton or goat.
According to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), these foods can increase the risk of developing cancers, including colorectal cancer.
The group of IARC scientists analyzed more than 800 studies on cancer and concluded that consumption of meats or processed meats actually increased the risk of cancer. According to them, the risk grows with the amount consumed. Thus, a portion of 2 ounces of sausage a day increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%!
As for red meat alone, IARC says it can be difficult to decide on carcinogenicity, since the indications are insufficient. That is to say that red meat consumption is positively associated with colorectal cancer risk, but other explanations also come into consideration.
This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic” while processed meat was clearly classified as carcinogenic to humans, in the same category as tobacco.
How red meat and processed meats are carcinogens?
The carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meats can be explained by various factors, including the processing and cooking process.
During processing or cooking the meat, chemical compounds may form. Some of them, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), N-nitroso compounds and heterocyclic aromatic amines are all carcinogenic.
The ingredients used in the transformation process also play a role in the increased risk of cancer.
You should know that diets high in processed meats are causing 34.000 cancer deaths per year. It is therefore vital to reduce consumption of processed meat and red meat at the same time. We must also pay close attention to their composition and choose the least harmful to the health.
How to choose the right product?
It is very important to read the ingredient list of products you buy to know their composition. Some products contain very dangerous food additives or even carcinogenic, and therefore should be avoided.
The first thing to look for in any processed meat product, whether sausages, hot dogs or salami is the inscription “MSM”. MSM or Mechanically Separated Meat refers to meat which is obtained by removal of animal bones or poultry carcasses, using mechanical means, inducing impaired muscle fiber structure. These have a lower nutritional quality and may include bone residues which are deposited with hormones, antibiotics and heavy metals that the animals consumed.
Thus, avoid all foods with MSM inclusion in the list of ingredients, like those that contain emulsifiers (E249, E250, E251 and E252). The emulsifiers can cause nitrosamine formation, a hazardous chemical compound, classified as a carcinogen. Also avoid foods that contain polyphosphate (E451, E452 and E453), since they are genotoxic and can damage your DNA and cause mutations.
Finally, be careful with products that include carrageenan (E407), a thickening product that is linked to various gastrointestinal problems such as intestinal lesions and colon cancer.