U of S expert weighs in on WHO processed meat warning

SASKATOON – Experts say they’re not shocked to hear bacon is bad for your health. What’s new is just how harmful consuming lots of bacon and processed meat as part of your daily diet really is.

On Monday, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new report in which it evaluated the carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat. What experts concluded is that bacon and other processed meat that have been transformed in some way cause cancer.

“It’s about balance and it’s about people understanding their cancer risk and this is important information to inform people how they should be eating,” said Sian Bevan, director of research for the Canadian Cancer Society.

According to the report, each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily, less than two slices of bacon, increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.

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Red meats were probably carcinogenic but that hasn’t been proven.

READ MORE: WHO: Processed meat can increase risk of cancer; red meat risky too

The cancer agency known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considered more than 800 studies investigating the association of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets.

“What we’re saying is, it isn’t that you should eat meat. It’s that you shouldn’t eat a lot of meat or especially processed meat every day,” said Dr. Susan Whiting, a professor of nutrition and dietetics with the University of Saskatchewan.

The WHO has now classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence, placing it in the same category as plutonium.

A BLT isn’t as bad as smoking, so experts say there is no reason to go cold turkey just yet but that a person should definitely cut back.

“Everyone needs protein every day but they don’t always need it as meat,” said Whiting.

Based on limited evidence, the WHO suggested a 100 gram portion of red meat a day could increase the risk of cancer by 17 per cent. A typical six ounce steak is 180 grams.

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Watch below: WHO doctor explains reasoning behind red meat, processed meat ruling

According to Whiting, red meat can be beneficial but in limited amounts.

“Meat is a good source of iron, zinc and protein but it’s not something that you need three times a day and you don’t it need seven days a week.”

Experts say it’s time to get back to the basics by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and substituting plant-based proteins whenever you can.

“I don’t what to say to the person it’s your fault you’re making a bad choice,” added Whiting.

“It’s what should we be doing to help people make a better choice and even, what should the food industry do to help people make better choices.”


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