I remember my father’s breakfast every morning ~ 3 strips of bacon and 2 eggs, over easy. He never deviated. And he died of a heart attack at 52. Could that bacon really have been part of his early death?
According to a multinational group of scientists tracking the health and eating habits of bacon-loving Brits, as well as residents of seven other European countries ~ almost a half-million people in all ~ they found that people who ate a lot of processed meats ~ more than 20 grams a day, the equivalent of one thin strip of bacon ~ were much more likely to die of heart attacks and stroke, and also had a higher cancer risk. The more processed meats they ate, the greater the risk. So, perhaps that bacon and egg breakfast every morning did play a part in my Dad’s early death.
So what is included in the list of processed foods? Bacon, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami, and pretty much all of the red meat used in frozen prepared meals. And they are normally manufactured with an ingredient called sodium nitrate, considered to be a carcinogenic ingredient and put into the packaged meat to make it look fresher by turning it into a bright red color.
Reactions in the stomach then yield nitrosamines, also considered to be carcinogenic. This happens when these compounds are subjected to high heat, i.e. when bacon is cooked. Did you know that Vitamin C can block the formation of these carcinogenic compounds? People whose diets are rich in Vitamin C have been found to be less prone to stomach cancers. Pretty important information!
One of the leaders of the above study (which was just published in the journal BM Medicine), Sabine Rohrmann, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Zurich, attributed the risk of cancer in processed meats to the salt, smoke and nitrates used as preservatives as well as the amazingly high amounts of fat found in many of the salty, fatty meats, reminding us that some salamis contain as much as 50% fat!
And then there is that famous study involving lots of olive oil, nuts, fish, and veggies, and very little red meat ~ shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
So what is a consumer to do? Give up that all-American breakfast of bacon and eggs forever? The World Cancer Research Fund, after conducting a review of over 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer, would have you do just that! Its conclusion? Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption. Consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives.
My choice at this time would be to include vitamin C-rich foods and supplements in my diet and encourage family members to choose nitrate-free choices if they want to have that bacon with their eggs! What about you? Do these studies affect your eating habits?