Published On: Thu, Oct 8th, 2020

Why is Processed Meat Bad For You?

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Processed meat is normally considered unhealthy. However, processed meats are convenient, woven, and affordable into the collective diet. So why is processed meat bad for you? Well, they are associated with diseases such as heart disease and cancer in several studies.

There is no doubt that processed meat includes several harmful chemicals that are not present in fresh meat. Experts show that consuming processed meats such as cold cuts and bacon that can increase the chances for colorectal and stomach cancer.

There is no way to eliminate the risk of cancer completely. But, the American Institute of Cancer Research advises avoiding processed meats. It means that they consume processed meat as little as possible. So, in this article, we will have a detailed look at the side effects of processed meat.

What is Processed Meat?

Processed meat has been preserved by salting, curing, drying, canning, or smoking. These meats are categorized as processed meats:

  • Hot dogs, sausages, salami.
  • Cured bacon, ham.
  • Cured and salted meat, corned beef.
  • Smoked meat.
  • Beef jerky, dried meat.
  • Canned meat.

On the other hand, meat that has been refrigerated or undergone from mechanical processing such as slicing and cutting is still viewed as unprocessed.

Consuming Processed Meat is Linked With the Unhealthy Lifestyles

Processed meat has consistently been associated with harmful effects on health. Also, it is a fact that health-conscious people have been aware for years.

For this reason, consuming a high amount of processed meat is more popular among people with unhealthy lifestyles. For example, smoking is more normal among those who consume plenty of processed meat. Their consumption of vegetables and fruit is also much lower.

It is likely that the connection found between disease and processed meat is likely because people who consume processed meat tend to do other things, and they are not associated with good health.

Many observational studies on health outcomes and processed meat try to correct for these factors. However, the expert is consistently finding a strong connection between processed meat-eating and several chronic diseases.

Processed Meat is Associated with Chronic Disease

Consuming processed meat is linked with an increased risk of several chronic diseases.

These diseases include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach and bowel cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Experts show that people who consume processed meat are more likely to get these diseases, though they cannot prove that processed meat caused them.

Even though the proof is convincing because the connection is strong and consistent moreover, all of these studies are done on animals. Such as researchers’ studies in rats shows that consuming processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

Well, the one thing clear is that processed meat includes harmful chemical compounds that might increase the risk of chronic disease.

Nitrite, N-nitroso Compounds, and Nitrosamines

N-nitroso compounds are the cancer-causing things that are believed to be responsible for many of the disadvantageous effects of processed meat consumption.

It is formed from nitrite that is combined with processed meat products. It is used as an additive for three reasons:

  • It preserves the pink/red color meat.
  • It improves the flavor by suppressing fat oxidation.
  • It prevents the growth of bacteria, also improving and cutting the chance of food poisoning.

Nitrite and related compounds, like nitrate, are also found in other foods. Such as, nitrate is found in relatively high levels in a few vegetables and might even be beneficial for health.

Although not all nitrite is related. It is used in processed meat that can convert into harmful N-nitroso elements, and it is extensively studied of nitrosamines.

The processed meat is the main dietary source of nitrosamines. Their other sources contain contaminated drinking water, salted, tobacco smoke, and pickled foods.

Nitrosamines are primarily formed when the processed food items are exposed to high temperatures above 130°C, like when grilling sausages or frying bacon.

Research in animals showed that nitrosamines might play a major role in the formation of bowel cancer.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Smoking meat is one of the oldest preservation methods, frequently used in combination with drying and salting.

And this leads to the formation of several likely harmful substances. It contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. PAHs are the huge class of substances that form when the organic thing burns.

After that it is transferred into the air and collected on the surface of the smoked meat items, and the meat is grilled, roasted or barbecued over the open fire.

It can be formed from:

  • Charcoal or burning wood.
  • Dripping fat burns on the hot surface.
  • Charred or burnt meat.

This is the main reason for smoked meat that can be high in PAHs. It also believed that PAHs might add to some of the disadvantageous health effects of processed meat.

Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs)

HCAs are a class of chemical composites that forms when the fish or meat is cooked under a high temperature, like grilling or frying.

Well, there is no limit to processed meat, but the significant amounts that can be found in the fried bacon, meat burgers, and sausages.

Heterocyclic Amines cause cancer when it is given to the animals in high amounts. Normally speaking, these amounts are much higher than normally found in a human diet.

However, several observational studies in humans show that eating well-done meat might raise the risk of cancer in the breast, prostate, and colon.

The level of heterocyclic amines can be minimized by doing gentle cooking methods, like steaming and frying under low heat. Avoid eating blackened, charred meat.

Sodium Chloride

Processed meat items are generally high in sodium chloride, also known as table salt.

For ages, salt has been combined with food products as the preservative. But, it is most frequently used to enhance the taste.

Though processed meat is far from being the only food that is high in salt, it might contribute significantly to the salt consumption for some people.

Huge salt intake might play a role in heart disease and hypertension, especially in those who have conditions termed salt-sensitive hypertension.

Moreover, many observational studies show that diet in salt might raise the risk of stomach cancer.

It is supported by the research that the high-salt diet might increase the growth of helicobacter pylori; it is a bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, which are major risk factors for stomach cancer.

Moreover, adding some salt to the food can improve the taste, but consuming a massive amount from the processed meats might cause harm.

Final Words

Processed meat is bad for you because it contains several chemical mixtures that are not present in fresh meat. Several of these mixtures are harmful to health. 

Because of this reason, consuming plenty of processed meat items for a long period might increase the risk of chronic disease, mainly cancer.

Though consuming them occasionally is fine. Remember not to let them dominate the diet and avoid consuming them every day. You should limit the consumption of processed foods and base your diet on fresh foods. If you find this information useful, drop a comment below this section.

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