Processed meat includes meat that is preserved through salting, curing, canning, drying or smoking. Processed meats range from hot dogs, ham, sausages, bacon to salami and ham.
Eating high quantities of processed meats is has been associated with critical health conditions including heart disease and cancer. The chemicals used to preserve meat such as nitrite, nitrosamines and nitroso compounds raise the risk of developing cancer by overwhelming rates. Sodium nitrate is used in processed meats due to its preservative properties. Sodium is also used to enhance flavor of the meat and inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause poisoning.
How Processed Meats Cause Cancer
- While nitrate found in vegetables in beneficial to the body, the nitrate in processed meats turns into N-nitroso compounds such as nitrosamines. These nitosamines are mostly formed due to exposure of processed meats to high heat, such as when grilling or frying. According to studies these compounds increase the risk of bowel and stomach cancer.
- Smoking meat leads to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that accumulate on the top layer of the grilled, roasted or barbecued meat. Research has indicated that these compounds can cause cancer.
- When meat is cooked under extremely high temperatures, Heterocyclic amines compounds form. They are formed when meat is fried or grilled under high temperatures. However, taking well-done meat has been associated with breast, prostate and colon cancer. To minimize the dangers of Heterocyclic amines, one can fry meat under low heat.
- Most processed meats contain high levels of sodium chloride. High levels of sodium chloride in a person’s diet can increase the risk of certain diseases including hypertension. Moreover, studies have shown that high amounts of salt in a diet can raise the risk of stomach cancer. The high salt foods cause the growth of Helicobacter bacteria which causes stomach ulcers and later stomach cancer.
While taking small amount of red meat at least once in a while may not cause cancer, taking large quantities of processed meats regularly may raise the chances of getting cancer. After much research by the IARC, processed meats have been declared a huge cause of cancer. They have been named group 1 carcinogen the same classification as smoking and alcohol. The processes involved in preserving the processed meats or enhancing their flavors have detrimental effects on a person’s life. Make an informed decision to take processed meats in moderation and cook your meat under low temperatures to minimize the risk of getting cancer.