If you are a regular news watcher, you will have undoubtedly heard of the new research pointing to processed meat as a cause of cancer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report came to conclusions that 50g of processed meat-such as sausages, luncheon, or corned beef-daily can increase risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Processed meat is not the same as fresh red meat, it has been chemically processed extensively to change its shape and texture and prolong shelf life.

How exactly processed meat contributes to the progression of cancer is not fully understood, but scientists suspect that harmful chemicals, such as N-nitroso compounds, are formed during the processing. This also happens when meat is barbequed or charred at very high heats.

Following this report, processed meat has been placed in the same category as smoking and alcohol, in that they cause cancer. This has lead to some confusion and questions like, ‘Is processed meat as dangerous as smoking 20 cigarettes a day?’ The answer is no, one is definitely more dangerous than the other.

To put things in context:
21% of bowel cancers are caused by processed meats.
78% of lung cancers are caused by smoking.

Although maybe not quite as harmful to our body as smoking, there is definitely enough robust evidence to recommend cutting back on processed meat, and having some meat free days during your week will be beneficial for your overall health. Meat-centric eating tends to push healthier foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, to the side of the plate.