So in October 2015, WHO decided to classify processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen. It share the same classification as asbestos and smoking. The basis of this justification is the research done by Global Burden of Disease Project that placed an estimated 34,000 death globally due to diets high in processed meat on an annual basis. Understandably, this leads to a flurry of both sensationalist and respected media such as the guardian, Canadian Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, and BBC all to publish articles about the evils of processed meat. And it leads to the Big Asian Guy’s lovely Significant Other to understandably started getting worried about his bacon consumption. Hence me writing this article to both ease her mind and make sure you, my dear readers will also be properly armed to ease your SO’s mind.
Mind you, according to WHO, processed meat are:
“Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood.
Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.”
So if you think it doesn’t concern you since you hate bacon but love beef jerkey or heck, even smoked salmon, then you are wrong, this does concern you and the food you love.
First and foremost, the basis of this classification is their research finding that shows sufficient evidence that processed meat causes colorectal cancer. Nasty disease I agree. There is no sufficient evidence linking it to any other form of cancer. An association with stomach cancer, yes, but no conclusive evidence. And this is after combing through 800 studies on cancer in humans, and 400 epidemiology studies on processed meat, the study is done by 22 experts from 10 countries. If there is a conclusive evidence linking processed meat with any other cancer, they would have found it.
Second of all, although 34,000 deaths might sound a lot, these numbers contrast with about 1 million cancer deaths per year globally due to tobacco smoking which is also placed within the same category. And I would argue that there are way more people eating processed meat than there are people smoking.
Third, the ABSOLUTE risk factor increase from consuming processed meat DAILY compared to going all paleo vegan here is 18%. I am not making this up. All 3 facts can be found on the first link I gave on top of this article.
Now after we consider these three facts, lets step back a little bit and do a little bit of research on what IS the baseline risk of getting a colorectal cancer anyway, as in based on the current diet of different cultures GLOBALLY. According to research published on Clinical Colorectal Journal in 2009, the highest population-at-risk for colorectal cancer are the people in United States, Australia and New Zealand, and Western Europe which is 40 out of every 100,000 people (0.04% mind you) whereas in Africa and some parts of Asia, its down to 5 out of every 100,000 people (0,005%). WITH EXISTING DIET. Suppose you abandon your existing diet and go all monk, the ABSOLUTE decrease in risk is (0.04% times 18%) ….0.0072% if you are on the HIGHER population bracket. Mind you, according to US National Weather Service, your odds of getting struck by lightning over your LIFETIME (approximately 80 years) is 0.0083%. The decrease in risk by changing your lifestyle is less than the chance of you getting hit by a lightning. And based on our dear NSC friend’s data in 2002, the chances of death while being a car passenger 1 out of 17,625. Are you going to stop riding a car?
So do you think its worth changing your diet? Bring on the bacon darling!