Processed Meats as Carcinogens Explained


stock-illustration-71504179-meat-of-the-worldIt wasn’t that long ago that the World Health Organization (International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC) released their report classifying meat as a carcinogen. As they have with other foods, various cancer institutes, research centers and the Dietetic Academy have all promoted the consumption of red meats.

Let’s break the classification down and figure out what processed meat is.

As illustrated in this chart released by Cancer Research UK to explain the IARC classification, processed meats are classified as a Group 1 food indicating that there is strong evidence that eating processed meats causes cancer. Unprocessed meats were classified as Group 2A, indicating that they probably cause cancer.

Meat and Cancer classification





What are processed meat?  What is unprocessed red meat?

Processed meat is meat that has been cured, salted, smoked or preserved in any form. This includes, but is not limited to, smoked meats, chorizo, cold cuts, sausages, ham, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs and of course, bacon. Unprocessed red meat is any meat that is red in color before cooking and the muscle portion of a mammal – beef, lamb, goat, veal and pork.

The IARC report, based on the work of 22 researchers from 10 countries who looked at more than 800 studies, reported that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day may increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Red meat consumption increases your cancer risk by 17 percent per 100 grams eaten per day. The chart below, also released by Cancer Research UK to explain the IARC report, illustrates how meat consumption adds up and provides recommendations for decreasing meat consumption. Keep in mind, 28 grams equals 1 ounce.



Look closely, even bacon is still under recommended foods. The key is moderation. For any diet to be healthy, it is best to eat the foods you are permitted to eat in moderation. This is a learned discipline and not always the easy.With a little planning, and help from a nutritionist, you can plan healthy meals that are among other things, high in fiber, whole grain, nuts, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, chicken, fish; limited red meat and processed meats as well as healthy amounts of salts and sugar. Consult a nutritionist for advice.

Please also consider food preparation. Limit deep and or pan-frying, grilling or other high-temperature cooking of red meats, as these may produce chemicals that are not necessarily good for the body.

Lastly, it is very important is to fit daily activity into your day. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program. A physical therapist can help you to design an exercise routine that is healthy and fits your lifestyle.

This blog post is published courtesy of Bibina Varughese, RD, pediatric nutritionist, The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. To make an appointment, please call 732-745-8600, ext. 8495.




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