Why red meats, processed meats and sausages could cause cancer

This weekend a note published by the newspaper Daily Mail alarmed a good number of its readers when it was known that, apparently, the World Health Organization was going to issue a report prepared by a group of 22 experts from 10 countries and belonging to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) , in which I would consider processed meat (among which we can mention hamburgers, sausages, bacon, sausages ...) as highly carcinogenic products.

Finally that note came, and as expected, WHO considers processed and red meat as carcinogenic. Specific the processed meat would fall into group 1 of carcinogenic substances, the same group in which we find other substances and compounds such as tobacco, alcohol, arsenic and asbestos, and which according to the classification of categories collected by the IARC would be substances, compounds and food with sufficient evidence to confirm which can be a cause of cancer for humans.

On the other hand, has also considered red meat as a probably carcinogenic substance, which means that they fall into category 2A; that is, there would be sufficient evidence that these substances and compounds may be a cause of cancer for humans, but the evidence is not conclusive at the moment.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed 800 studies published so far. According to the report, eating 50 grams of processed meat each day would increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18%, a risk that would increase depending on the amount of meat consumed (that is, the greater the amount obviously, the greater the risk). ). In addition, associations with other types of cancer, such as pancreas and prostate cancers, have also been observed.

What are processed meats and what are they?

Processed meats are products of animal origin that have been transformed through curing, salting, fermentation, smoking or other processes in order to improve their conservation or taste.

This type of food contains mostly beef and pork, as well as other red meats, poultry or meat byproducts (as is the case with blood in the case of blood sausages).

Some clear examples are: ham and sausages (chorizo, ham, ham, cecina ...) in general, sausages, hamburgers, canned and canned meats and meat preparations and sauces.

Why can they cause cancer?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, although the causes for which the excessive consumption of red and processed meats could increase the risk of colorectal cancer are not entirely clear, there would be some clear mechanisms involved:

  • Nitrates: Nitric acid salts are used in order to prevent the deterioration of processed meats, as well as to preserve color. Different studies have found that these compounds cause the formation of carcinogenic substances.
  • Hemic iron: it is a mineral responsible for the color so characteristic of red meat, which could damage the lining of the colon and therefore facilitate the appearance of tumors in this organ.
  • Smoked: several studies have found that smoked meats contain carcinogenic substances (specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that are formed when the meat reaches high temperatures. In addition, when the cooking takes place at high temperatures (without smoked) other carcinogenic substances are also produced, as is the case of heterocyclic amines.

Therefore, as we see, excessive consumption of red and processed meats may increase the risk of colorectal cancer. However, the World Health Organization itself has not advised against its use, but recommended to always do so in small quantities (not exceeding 50 grams) and always in a timely manner.

Eating 20 grams of sausages per day increases mortality

The sausages They are usually pieces of minced meat and seasoned with spices or aromatic herbs, which are usually introduced into skin of pork casings, and we find them especially in butchers and delicatessens. Although, as a general rule, it is also true that today it is known as sausage to any cured meat product, dry or semi-dry, cooked or smoked.

The best known are the sausage, chorizo, loin, ham, sausage ... They are usually consumed regularly, and from a nutritional point of view have always caused controversy because of its high content of fats, additives, preservatives and sodium.

Nutritionally speaking, most of the sausages are above all very rich in fats: they contribute around 40% of saturated fatty acids and are mostly composed of unsaturated fatty acids, although they also provide polyunsaturated fatty acids (in the form of omega 6).

In addition, it is common to contain preservatives, stabilizers, dyes and preservatives, and also tend to be excessively rich in sodium.

According to a study eating 20 grams of sausages per day increases mortality

Many nutritionists tend to indicate that the consumption of sausages should always be moderate, and never regular, due above all to their content in fats, additives and preservatives, and sodium.

A recent macro-study in which 448,568 people (men and women) have participated has found that consuming more than 20 grams of sausages increases the risk of dying before, so that if the consumption of processed meats is limited to this amount, mortality will be it would reduce 3.3%.

But far from what can be thought, as discussed in the study, follow a vegetarian diet does not ensure that the person is healthier and live longer, because when you follow a diet without meat products and is not supplemented with other foods that contribute the nutrients that contain the meat, can be an associated cause of greater risks of mortality and morbidity.

In fact, it seems that those people who eat more white meat compared to vegetarians have a similar mortality. However, this mortality increases a bit among those who choose to consume more Red meat.

More information | El PaĆ­s This article is published for informational purposes only. You can not and should not replace the consultation with a Nutritionist. We advise you to consult your trusted Nutritionist. ThemesCancer Meat

Mayo Clinic Minute: Revamping your plate to reduce processed meats (December 2021)