Processed meat is generally considered unhealthy. It has been linked with diseases like cancer and heart disease in numerous studies. There is no doubt that processed meat contains many harmful chemicals that are not present in fresh meat. This article takes a detailed look at the health effects of processed meat.
What is Processed Meat?
Processed meat is meat that has been preserved by curing, salting, smoking, drying or canning. Food products categorized as processed meat include:
- Sausages, hot dogs, salami.
- Ham, cured bacon.
- Salted and cured meat, corned beef.
- Smoked meat.
- Dried meat, beef jerky.
- Canned meat.
On the other hand, meat that has been frozen or undergone mechanical processing like cutting and slicing is still considered unprocessed.
Processed Meat is Linked with Chronic Disease
Eating processed meat is associated with increased risk of many chronic diseases.
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Bowel and stomach cancer
- Studies on processed meat consumption in humans are all observational in nature.
They show that people who eat processed meat are more likely to get these diseases, the evidence is convincing because the links are strong and consistent. Additionally, all of this is supported by studies in animals. For example, studies in rats show that eating processed meat raises the risk of bowel cancer. One thing is clear, processed meat contains harmful chemical compounds that may increase the risk of chronic disease. The most widely studied compounds are discussed here below.
- Nitrite, N-Nitroso Compounds and Nitrosamines: increase the risk of cancer in the stomach and bowel.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): These compounds have been shown to cause cancer in animals.
- Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): HCAs cause cancer when given to animals in high amounts.
- Sodium Chloride: Processed meat products contain large amounts of salt, which may contribute to some health problems.
Processed meat contains various chemical compounds that are not present in fresh meat. Many of these compounds are harmful to health.
For this reason, eating a lot of processed meat products for a long period (years or decades) may increase the risk of chronic disease, especially cancer.
However, eating them occasionally is fine. Just make sure not to let them dominate your diet and avoid eating them every day.
At the end of the day, you should limit your intake of processed foods and base your diet on fresh whole foods.