World Health Organizes Ranks Bacon and Deli Meats Alongside Cigarettes as Major Causes of Cancer

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Bacon and Deli MeatsBig news came down on Monday regarding the safety of processed foods—and the results might shock you.

If you’ve been following my articles, you know that a diet high in processed foods can be dangerous. It can lead to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other adverse health effects—including causing cancer. In fact, the consumption of processed meats is as likely to cause cancer as smoking cigarettes, breathing asbestos, or inhaling diesel fumes.

WHO’s Announcement: Processed Meats Equal to Cigarettes

On Monday morning, after a long, large study, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, ham, lunchmeat, and the like are in its group 1 cancer list, meaning that there is “sufficient evidence” for cancer links.

The likely culprit that is making processed meats carcinogens are nitrates. Nitrates are natural chemicals found in the soil, air and water, but are also food additives used to stop bacteria growth and improve the taste and color of food. When used as an additive, nitrates can be dangerous.

Processed meats like sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats can cause colon cancer, so it’s highly recommended that you avoid—or at the vey minimum, limit—your intake of processed meats. If you’re not sure what processed meats are, they usually come in a package or have a glossy aesthetic. Words like “cured” or “smoked” on a label usually indicate nitrates have been added, and ingredients like potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate are dead giveaways.

Now, it is possible that nitrates used as additives are not the reason processed meats cause colon cancer, but it is highly probable. And even if they are not the culprit, you should still avoid processed meats because whatever the true culprit is, it’s causing cancer.

Tips for Eliminating Processed Meats from Your Diet

Here are some easy tips to get you started on limiting your risk of colon cancer by avoiding these dangerous meats:

  • Skip bacon and sausage for breakfast and try pairing grilled vegetables with eggs
  • If you typically go for a deli sandwich at lunchtime, swap it with some fresh turkey or chicken breast. Remember, fresh is key; if it’s processed, it’s no different than your ham or salami. You can also try a veggie wrap with hummus, a grilled chicken salad panini, or a tuna sandwich.
  • Make processed meats a treat. Look, I avoid processed meats the vast majority of the time, but sometimes, like on a vacation or during the holidays, I like a small side of bacon or sausage. Look at this option as a kind of special occasion to indulge yourself. The occasional serving of processed meat is unlikely to do harm; the likelihood of cancer was found to increase with those who ate it more often.

There are so many alternatives to processed meats that it shouldn’t be very hard to avoid them. It may require spending a little more on fresh options, including more fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and whole grains, but the health benefits are more than worth it.

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Sources for Today’s Article:
“The Truth About Nitrates,” Eat Right Ontario web site;, last accessed October 26, 2015.