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Are processed meats carcinogenic? PART 2

Posted by Aisling Murray on


Moderation is the key

On the 26th of October 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report on the cancer causing effects of processed meats and red meat. This is a continuation of last week’s article in the Westmeath Examiner on this topic. If you missed it you will find it on the Westmeath Examiner or Whelehans Pharmacy website.


This article from the WHO is not a reason to boycott all processed meat and exclude red meat from the diet; moderation is the key. One slice of bacon or ham every now and again is not going to cause cancer, just like eating sweets in moderation will not cause severe tooth decay.


If you are consuming processed meat more than twice a week you may need to rethink your diet; most nutritionists would have stated that before the article from WHO was published. From the last census conducted in 2011, it was discovered that 8,871 individuals in Ireland died from Cancer.  Bowel cancer is the fifth most common cancer diagnosed (which was the type of cancer mentioned in the WHO study). This sends off alarm bells especially when 50% of cancers are avoidable; 30% of cancers are avoidable through lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating healthier and reducing stress.


Do I think processed meats are to blame for the incidences of cancer? The short answer is No. The prevalence of cancer has to do with a number of factors. In my experience dealing with clients, individuals who eat a lot of processed meat, tend to have unhealthy diets all around. I have come across few clients who eat a lot of processed meats and are still conscious they get their five a day. This may be due to a lack of knowledge on the balanced diet and once I explain the benefits of eating everything in moderation and show how to do this, their diet vastly improves.


WHO stated there is very little evidence that eating 100g of red meat (beef, lamb, pork) a day can increase risk of bowel cancer. Although it’s linked to increased incidence of pancreatic and prostate cancer, studies are not conclusive enough to release a definitive statement, unlike with processed meats. It would appear the means which are used to process the meats (rather than the meats themselves) are the contributing factor to its cancer causing properties.


Red meat is important in the diet as it provides a valuable source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. I will stress once more that moderation is the key thing to take away from the WHO article and educating yourself on these topics is always advisable. 


Whelehans Nutrition Service

Whelehans nutritional service is a private one to one advice service with our nutritionist Aisling Murray. Aisling’s areas of interest include weight loss management, nutrition education and food intolerance. Our nutrition service offers you the chance to change your life in an affordable but positive way by focusing on your overall wellbeing as well as the chance to follow up on your progress.


Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment


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