A few weeks back the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meats as a carcinogen. They also said that red meat is “probably carcinogenic.” In the wake of that announcement, I was hit with an onslaught of social media posts from vegetarians & vegans saying "I told you so!"
So what's upl with this classification? Has the veg community been right all along? If if you're not on a plant based diet, should you just chuck it up as a loss, crack open a carton of cigarettes, and lay down in a tanning bed with your burger?
Now, I'm not an oncologist, scientist, or even nutritional, but I'm going to say probably not. Here are a few things I'm considering when it comes to this report and my own diet.
Before wrapping up, it is important to note that the report the WHO based it's findings off of, couldn't determine exactly what made red meat carcinogenic. They say this however:
"Meat consists of multiple components, such as haem iron. Meat can also contain chemicals that form during meat processing or cooking. For instance, carcinogenic chemicals that form during meat processing include N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons."
Cooking of red meat or processed meat also produces heterocyclic aromatic amines as well as other chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also found in other foods and in air pollution."
Basically, that delicious charring we love could be part of the problem. Also, processed meats often contain a high level of nitrates, MSG's, and other chemicals that could possibly contribute to the findings of this study.
Luckily, there is research to indicate eating foods like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and other green vegetables along side your meats can help reduce the risk some of these chemicals may pose. So again, eat your veggies with every meal!
I guess at the end of the day, I'm back to feeling good about Michael Pollan's advice from In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
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Ken Presutti is a certified ChiRunning instructor, ACE Personal trainer, Spinning instructor, and coach. This blog is a mix of new articles and posts from his original blog, Overkill is Underrated.