The classifications, by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, are believed to regard processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans", the highest of five possible rankings, shared with asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes. They warn that bacon, ham and sausages are as big a cancer threat as cigarettes.
The cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that the consumption of processed meats like hotdogs, ham, sausages and meat-based sauces causes colorectal cancer, while eating red meat like beef, pork and lamb is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
“In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance,” said Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) programmed responsible for the findings.
After reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC, processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.
Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor 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. The agency said examples of processed meat include hot dogs, or frankfurters, ham, sausages, corned beef, and bologna or beef jerky, as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.
The experts “concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent,”.
The agency also said that the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans. Red meat refers to all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. It also says there is "strong evidence" that processed meats, even in smaller quantities increase cancer risk.
The association between red meat and cancer was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer. One possible reason is that the compound that gives red meat its color, haem, may damage the lining of the bowel.
”These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,” said IARC director Dr. Christopher Wild. “At the same time, red meat has nutritional value,” Dr. Wild said. “Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”
The IARC Working Group considered more than 800 studies that investigated associations 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. The IARC’s mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking.
Twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.
Eating just one hot dog a day raises your risk for colorectal cancer by 21 percent, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research
When heated, nitrates and nitrites in processed meats combine with amines to form nitrosamines, proven to be carcinogenic
Hot dogs are extruded from a ground-up slurry of animal carcass, including fatty tissues and skins, animal feet, heads, and other “edible” slaughter by-products
To make hot dogs safe and palatable, a melange of binders, fillers, flavorings, and preservatives are added, including corn syrup, nitrates, MSG, and other synthetic chemicals
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) issued its landmark report about hot dogs and cancer risk, based on more than 7,000 scientific studies.
AICR determined that every 50 gram serving of processed meat you consume daily—for example, just ONE hot dog—raises your risk for colorectal cancer by 21 percent
Nitrosamines are one of the most potent carcinogens in cigarette smoke. One hot dog has as many nitrosamines and nitrosamides as five cigarettes. United Nations has classified process meats in the same cancer category as cigarette smoking. And these carcinogens are also found in fresh meat as well: beef, chicken, and pork. The rise in kidney cancer over the last few decades may have something to do with meat consumption.
Increasing number of Americans are diagnosed with kidney problems every year. The nine year NIH-AARP study is the largest prospective study on diet and health ever performed. Nitrate and nitrite intake were examimed all food sources, not just processed meats. Animal food sources was associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer. The researchers found no associations with nitrate or nitrite intake from plant sources.
The actual carcinogens are not nitrites, but nitrosamines and nitrosamides. In the stomach, nitrites are converted into nitros-amines, and nitros-amides using amines and amides found in animal products. Vitamin C and other antioxidants in plant foods block the formation of these carcinogens. The highest nitrate vegetables, like arugula, kale, and collards, are associated with decreased risk of kidney cancer.
Most of the meat and meat by-products come from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where animals are tortured in crowded, unhealthy, unsanitary, and cruel conditions, as the primary goal is cheap food, not quality food.
Here is the not-glorified version. They start with an animal carcass that's been stripped of all desirable cuts, boil the heck out of it, force it through a metal sieve, add water, grind it up into a slimy carcass paste ("meat emulsion" or "meat batter"), add a bunch of synthetic chemicals to make it taste good and binders to make it stick together, then extrude it into links.3, 4
Once desirable meat cuts are removed from beef, pork, and poultry (steaks, chops, ribs, thighs, breasts, briskets, etc.), what remains is a carcass consisting mostly of gristle, fat, and offal. The meat industry refers to this as "trimmings." According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):5
"The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products."
The butchering process imparts a considerable amount of bacteria to these carcasses, but because hot dogs are pre-cooked, manufacturers can get away with using these pieces and parts even if they are teeming with bacteria.
Cooking helps kill them, as well as separating the remaining muscle, fat, and connective tissues from the head and feet bones. The slimy paste that results from this rendering brew is what's referred to as "mechanically-recovered" meat. The process of manufacturing hot dogs is colorfully summarized in the Daily Mail:6
"In vast metal vats, tons of pork trimmings are mixed with the pink slurry formed when chicken carcasses are squeezed through metal grates and blasted with water. The mush is mixed with powdered preservatives, flavorings, red coloring and drenched in water before being squeezed into plastic tubes to be cooked and packaged."
At least the above list of ingredients "belong" in hot dogs... what's far worse are the extras. According to reports begrudgingly released by the USDA under the Freedom of Information Act, foreign objects recently found in hot dogs include Band-Aids, glass shards, razor blades, metal fragments, maggots, rat legs, and pieces of eyeballs.10
Large hot dog factories can blast out 300,000 of these dogs per hour. It takes only 30 seconds to build a chain of hot dogs that would span a soccer field twice. When a commercial operation is THIS massive, you can get some rather revolting contaminants.
The Truth About Nitrates and Nitrites
Many are confused about nitrates and nitrites, so let me clear up the confusion. Nitrates are present in many vegetables, such as beets, celery, lettuce, spinach, and most other leafy green vegetables. When you eat nitrates, your body converts a small percentage of them into nitrites. Nitrites and nitrates are not inherently bad for you—in fact, they are the precursor to nitric oxide (NO), which lowers your blood pressure and exerts mild anti-inflammatory effects.
Sodium nitrite is a synthetic preservative added to meats like hot dogs to help them maintain that nice pink color. The problem is, in the presence of heat—especially high heat—nitrites can combine with amines in processed meat to form nitrosamines, and it's these that are carcinogenic. Nitrosamines inflict cellular damage and have been linked to cancer, typically in your colon, bladder, stomach, or pancreas. Processed meats are far more prone to nitrosamine formation than vegetables, due to being higher in amines and intensively heat processed.
Vitamin C inhibits some of the nitrosamine formation, which is why 550 ppm ascorbic acid is now required added to all processed meats in the US.15 Vegetables contain more vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants, which is another reason why the nitrates in vegetables don't cause a problem.
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, around 90 percent of the nitrite in your body comes from vegetables, while just 10 percent comes from processed meats.16When meat or fish is cooked at high temperatures, other potent carcinogens are also created, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). If your processed meat is smoked, you can add polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the list.
What About Nitrates in Organic Hot Dogs?
Natural or organic hot dogs may not be much lower in nitrite—and some may even be higher than conventional hot dogs. Companies that label their products natural or organic must use natural sources of the preservatives, which usually come in the form of celery powder or celery juice, as celery is naturally high in nitrate.
A 2011 study published in The Journal of Food Protection found that natural hot dogs had anywhere from one-half to 10 times the amount of nitrite of conventional hot dogs. Similar scenario exists for bacon. Thus buying organic hot dogs is not necessarily going to reduce your nitrate exposure.
Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk.
Processed red meat linked to higher risk of heart failure, death in men American Heart Association Summary:
Men who regularly eat moderate amounts of processed red meat such as cold cuts (ham/salami) and sausage may have an increased risk of heart failure incidence and a greater risk of death from heart failure. Researchers recommend avoiding processed red meat and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings a week or less.
Processed meats are preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Examples include cold cuts (ham, salami), sausage, bacon and hot dogs.
Men who eat moderate amounts of processed red meat may have an increased risk of incidence and death from heart failure, according to a study in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.
Processed meats are preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Examples include cold cuts (ham, salami), sausage, bacon and hot dogs.
"Processed red meat commonly contains sodium, nitrates, phosphates and other food additives, and smoked and grilled meats also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all of which may contribute to the increased heart failure risk," said Alicja Wolk, D.M.Sc., senior author of the study and professor in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "Unprocessed meat is free from food additives and usually has a lower amount of sodium."
The Cohort of Swedish Men study -- the first to examine the effects of processed red meat separately from unprocessed red meat -- included 37,035 men 45-79 years old with no history of heart failure, ischemic heart disease or cancer. Participants completed a questionnaire on food intake and other lifestyle factors and researchers followed them from 1998 to the date of heart failure diagnosis, death or the end of the study in 2010.
After almost 12 years of follow-up, researchers found:
- Heart failure was diagnosed in 2,891 men and 266 died from heart failure.
- Men who ate the most processed red meat (75 grams per day or more) had a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure compared to men who ate the least (25 grams per day or less) after adjusting for multiple lifestyle variables.
- Men who ate the most processed red meat had more than a 2-fold increased risk of death from heart failure compared to men in the lowest category.
- For each 50 gram (e.g. 1-2 slices of ham) increase in daily consumption of processed meat, the risk of heart failure incidence increased by 8 percent and the risk of death from heart failure by 38 percent.
- The risk of heart failure or death among those who ate unprocessed red meat didn't increase.
At the beginning of the study, participants completed a 96-item questionnaire about their diet. Processed meat questions focused on consumption of sausages, cold cuts (ham/salami), blood pudding/sausages and liver pate over the last year. Unprocessed meat questions covered pork and beef/veal, including hamburger or ground-minced meat.
Results of the study for total red meat consumption are consistent with findings from the Physicians' Health Study, in which men who ate the most total red meat had a 24 percent higher risk of heart failure incidence compared to those who ate the least.
"To reduce your risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, we suggest avoiding processed red meat in your diet, and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less," said Joanna Kaluza, Ph.D., study lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland. "Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and increase your servings of fish."
Researchers said they expect to find similar associations in a current study conducted with women.
Almost 6 million Americans have heart failure and about 50 percent die within five years of diagnosis. The healthcare costs and loss of productivity due to heart failure are an estimated $34 billion each year, researchers said.
Source materials provided by American Heart Association.
- Joanna Kaluza, Agneta Åkesson, and Alicja Wolk. Processed and Unprocessed Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Heart Failure: A Prospective Study of Men. Circ Heart Fail., June 12 2014 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.113.000921
American Heart Association. "Processed red meat linked to higher risk of heart failure, death in men." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2014.
Consuming Hot Dogs Can Be Harmful to Your Health Multiple studies have determined that consumption of hot dogs can be a risk factor for childhood cancer. USC epidemiologist found that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.
In another study, children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer. The study examined the relationship between the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to age 10 in Los Angeles County between 1980 and 1987. It also concluded that there was a strong risk for childhood leukemia for children whose fathers’ intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month before conception. This demonstrated in part that the dietary habits of parents before their child is born, as well as during pregnancy, can leave them more prone to disease. Researchers Sarusua and Savitz, who studied childhood cancer cases in Denver, found that children born to mothers who consumed hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy had approximately double the risk of developing brain tumors. It’s been suggested that the nitrates contained in hot dogs are the cause of these health problems.
Peters et al studied the relationship between the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to age 10 in Los Angeles County between 1980 and 1987. The study found that children who ate more than twelve hot dogs per month had nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.
Researchers Sarusua and Savitz studied childhood cancer in Denver and found that children born to mothers who consumed hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy had about double the risk of developing brain tumors. Children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were also at higher risk of brain cancer.
Bunin et al also found that children of mothers who consumed hot dogs during pregnancy had an increased risk of childhood brain tumors.
How Do Hot Dogs Cause Cancer? Most hot dogs contain preservatives called nitrites. During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that nitrites combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, bladder, esophagus, stomach, and brain. All cured meat contains nitrites, including bacon. Sorry, bacon lovers.
What About Vegetables That Contain Nitrites? It is true that nitrites are commonly found in many green vegetables, especially spinach, celery, and green lettuce. However, the consumption of vegetables appears to be effective in reducing the risk of cancer. How is this possible? The explanation lies in the formation of N-nitroso compounds from nitrites and amines. Nitrite containing vegetables also have vitamins C and D, which help inhibit the formation of N-nitroso compounds.NEXT Are vegans scrawny?