The Risks of Processed Meat
The Risks of Processed Meat
A recent study of over 37,000 Swedish men found that those who ate more than 75 grams per day of processed meat increased their chances of dying from heart failure by almost 250%. How much is 75 grams? About the size of a deck of cards. That’s not much.
If that doesn’t turn your stomach, look here. In 2012, a study in Uruguay found that eating processed red meat increased one’s risk for nine types of cancer. In particular, men who ate processed red meat were found to increase their risk of prostate cancer by 72% per mouthful per day.
Do I have your attention now?
My take on this
As a naturopathic urologist, I’m always looking for ways to prevent men’s health problems before they show up. These studies make me smile because they show so clearly that we can make a difference in our future health just by choosing our meat more carefully. That’s good news!
Well, it’s not exactly news. Health experts have been repeating for decades that the key to long-lasting health is cutting out processed foods and refined sugars. This is a sort of medical fact. What these two studies add to the picture is concrete evidence that eating processed meat has specific negative consequences for the human body: heart failure and numerous cancers. In other words, we always knew it was bad, but now we know why.
The bottom line
The research findings are clear: processed meat is bad for your heart and the rest of your body. Even a small amount leads to a big health risk. This is a potent poison we’re dealing with, so naturally we want to make sure we’re eating as little of it as possible or none at all. How do you know whether your meat is processed?
Here are some general guidelines:
1. Unprocessed meat has one ingredient: meat.
Simply put, you want to avoid “meat products.” These products started out as meat but no longer deserve that title. If there’s a list of ingredients at all, chances are there are too many.
2. Avoid fast food chains.
Not only does fast food overload your body with bad fats, sugar, and salt, but the “meat” that fast food chains serve usually contains a lot less real meat than you would expect. Fast food giants have gained a reputation for skimping on substance. This is why they have to insist that their chicken is made with real chicken.
Keep in mind, however, that “made with” does not mean “made of.”
As a closing note, these studies don’t suggest that we have to be vegetarians. (Vegetarianism is great for a lot of people, but it’s not for everyone.) In fact, the study of the Swedish men reports no connection between unprocessed meat and the risk of heart failure. As with most things, moderation is the key. So eat your meat, but stay away from cold cuts.