New research regarding processed meats is in, and the results are unsavory. Harvard University scientists recently found that eating a mere 1.8-ounce serving of any form of processed meat per day results in a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes. In a large survey conducted this year of half a million people across 23 countries, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) linked a diet high in processed meat products to an increased risk of premature death from all causes, statistically eliminating other variables. This may well be due to the assortment of preservatives and carcinogens involved in their creation.
Processed meats, such as deli sandwich meats, sausage, bacon and pepperoni contain sodium nitrate, a harmful carcinogen used widely as a preservative. According to the New York Times, “there is general agreement… that nitrosamines are potent animal carcinogens and are likely to be human carcinogens as well.”
Sodium nitrate is also linked to gastric cancer. Dr. Philip Hartman of John Hopkins University estimates that, “perhaps 250 cases of gastric cancer a year are from nitrite in cured meat.” Additionally, a University of Hawaii study which focused on 200,000 people over the span of seven years concluded that those who consumed the most hot dogs and sausage had a 67 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who rarely ingested these products.
All processed meat products are hazardous to your health, but the following are our top five bad guys to avoid:
Sausage: Sausage is composed of chopped-up meats and meat by-products, including organs, gizzards, lips and whatever other part of the animal could not be formed into a choice cut. The parts are mixed together and seasoned, often with an array of suspicious artificial flavors. Cheap sausage brands often contain Red 2G as a food coloring, a dye that is deemed carcinogenic by the European Food Safety Authority. The level of Red 2G that would cause harm to humans is currently undetermined. Pork sausage is especially high in unhealthy saturated fat.
Deli Sandwich Meats: Like sausage, deli sandwich meats are processed using sodium nitrate. While its use has declined as a preservative in the past five years due to the discovery of its carcinogenic properties, many manufacturers continue to use it to soak their products during processing. Deli meats also may be composed of any part of an animal, and often include everything except the bones. Especially beware of sectioned and formed meats. These are made from hunks of meat from various cuts and bonded together using emulsions and non-meat additives, which contain high amounts of sodium and preservatives and quite often high fructose corn syrup to add to flavor.
Fast Food Hamburgers: According to the CDC, a typical fast food hamburger “may contain meat from hundreds of animals.” For this reason, risk of contamination from these burgers is very high, because if one animal in the batch is ill or contaminated, then all of the burgers that came from that batch will be tainted. If that isn’t enough to deter you, mass-produced burger patties, such as those served at your local McDonald’s or Burger King, are also packed full of sugars, sodium and calories, not to mention pesticides and antibiotics. Don’t forget the toxic zeranol used as a growth hormone in most commercial cattle, and the recent United Kingdom scandal involving the horsemeat found in Burger King’s patties.
Chicken Nuggets: Chicken nuggets are one of the principal products made from the notorious ‘pink slime.’ For those unaware of the disgusting findings, pink slime is a product created by mechanically separating meat such as chicken from the bones, grinding it together, then disinfecting the resulting slurry in an ammonia bath. Watch your ingredient labels for the term ‘mechanically separated’ to avoid pink slime. While not all chicken nuggets are created this way, commercial chicken has been found to possess other dangers. A study performed at John Hopkins University tested the
chemical content of chicken feathers, and found them to contain banned antibiotics, arsenic, antidepressants, caffeine and an array of other drugs – both prescription and over-the-counter. Aside from the chicken itself, the process of deep-frying the nuggets introduces carcinogenic, cancer-causing acrylamides – the by-products of cooking with extremely high heat – into the mix.
Bacon: Dangerous for many of the same reasons as the above-mentioned offenders, bacon is often cured in sodium nitrate and is loaded with fats and sodium. Additionally,those enjoying traditional pork bacon are often exposed to toxic zeranol, antibiotics, and various hidden preservatives. There are also some who believe that eating pork itself is more dangerous than other meats, as swine eat anything if allowed, including dead flesh, and often carry parasites and worms such as trichinosis. These can be transferred to humans if the pork is not thoroughly cooked.
Given these disturbing facts, it is important to choose your meats wisely, and avoid processed ones if you are able. When choosing your meats, look for ‘organic’ and ‘free-range’ on the labels, and research brands to see if they use harmful preservatives and antibiotics. You will be surprised at just how many manufacturers do. Sausage and bacon lovers with a little extra time on their hands can create their own! It only takes a few tools and a good recipe, and you can choose the quality, unprocessed ingredients yourself. While you may pay a little extra for quality, unprocessed meats, and invest a bit more time preparing them, you can be confident that your lunches are not slowly filling your body with poisons.
-The Alternative Daily