I know I am behind the times on the big announcement about processed meats, but few will realize just how far behind the time this announcement really is. Since the most recent announcement that processed meats can contribute to an increased risk of contracting cancer, it would appear, if we take a lot of the news media explosion, that many vegetarians have been jumping on their high horses and flooding social media with their now righteously confirmed damnation of meat and meat products. It seems that we have become “smug vegetarians”. Can you believe it, this is the news, this is what is really important that vegetarians are gloating?
The response by a few vegetarians seems to have taken the media by surprise, so much so that for a short period it overshadowed the real news about processed meats. Vegetarians, health professionals, and even doctors, have been making statements like this for decades but now that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the all-powerful FDA (in Canada the Ministry of Health) have come out with confirmation on the dangers of processed meat, it’s an OMG moment in the media. This is not really new information even, it has been known by scientists and researcher for many years (50 or so) that there is a link to cancer and a diet of processed meats.
What exactly is now being said about processed meats? According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) a group of international experts who study the evidence, in this case more than 800 studies, the results are overwhelming that consumption of process meats can contribute to some forms of cancer. The WHO has cited estimates that about 34,000 deaths per year worldwide associated with cancer, can be directly attributed to diets that are high in processed meats. While, to a statistician this is a small fraction of the 8.2 million deaths caused by cancer in 2012, it is still 34,000 lives that may not have had to end as they did.
How much is too much
The information coming out of the current research, as reported by WHO, is that simply eating 50 grams of processed meat each day, that’s about two slices of processed ham, a few slices of bacon, can increase the risk of some cancers by 18%. Now some would say that this is pretty low odds, but when we look at the numbers dying of cancer, 8.2 million in 2012, 18% is a significant number. To give a visual, let’s say you are standing on a highway and 100 cars are coming towards you, but only 18 have a possible chance of striking you. When you compound this 18% with all the other percentages of risk for cancer, do you really want to add any percentage to the list? On average there is already a 40% chance of getting some form of cancer in your life.
Adding another 18% puts you critically close to a 50/50 risk.