An international panel of experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded on Monday that eating processed meat (any type of meat that is salted, cured or smoked to enhance its flavor or preserve it) can increase the risk of colon cancer by 18 per cent. This report also rated processed meats in the same category as smoking and asbestos for causing cancer. But the increase in risk is so minimal that we should not be overly worried about it.
You may say “Did you use the word slight? We are talking about cancer and you say I should not be worried?”
Sure! We don’t really need to be worried because the study implies that the risk of getting colon cancer is 18 per cent if you eat one and a half ounce (0.04 kg) of processed meat. On the other hand, the risk of getting a lung cancer if you smoke cigarettes is 1,000 percent.
A WHO report says 8.2 million deaths worldwide in 2012 were attributed to cancer. But annually, only 34,000 cancer deaths worldwide can be attributed to consumption of processed meat.
I still believe that there is more work to be done and there is need to reconsider this. Rating processed meat with cigarette smoking may sound like an exaggeration, although we know there are risks associated with eating smoked foods.
The reality is that everything we do has some form of risk associated with it. The risk of getting involved in an accident is also associated with going to work every day. We only need to always do a risk-benefit analysis and always try to reduce the risks.
Reducing the risk while going to work will involve driving within the stipulated speed limits and ensuring your car is in good working condition. Same thing applies to eating “processed meat.”
Too much of everything is bad. Same goes for smoked foods. In fact, too much of water is bad because it can result in water toxicity and death. It is advisable that we do not limit our consumption to particular foods. Try to eat a little bit of everything.
In addition, a group of vegetables known as “Cruciferous vegetables” have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice. These vegetables are rich in nutrients, such as carotenoids, vitamins C, E, and K; folate, and minerals. They also are a good fiber source. Some common examples of these vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, et cetera.
Furthermore, I recommend that you purchase meat from reputable stores that have not used any preservatives to store it. Most times, a salt known as sodium nitrate is used to preserve meat to extend its shelf life. And salts have been associated with increasing blood pressure.
If you consume too much salt, your blood sodium level rises and your body tries to “dilute” the effect of the salt by pulling in some more water through a process called osmosis. This eventually results in an “increased blood volume” and “higher blood pressure.”
So, fresh meat from reputable shops or the abattoir may be an alternative to frozen meat (chicken, turkey and fish) that contains preservatives to extend their shelf lives.
Another thing we will need to cut down on is the consumption of smoked foods, such as suya (roast meat) and ponmo(cow hide). The reason is because during the production process of ponmo, the hide and skin are usually subjected to naked flames so as to enable them to burn off the skin. During the burning process, a lot of different unhygienic substances such as trash, wood, charcoal, rubber tires, and so on, are thrown into the furnace to sustain the blazing heat.
As the furnace burns, the combusting wood, gas, or charcoal emits chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which find their way into the smoked food and contaminates it. These particles are known carcinogens and irritants to our digestive systems because we are not supposed to inhale or consume smoke particles.
Ponmo is a delicacy, no doubt. But if you must eat it, choose the white type because the cow is usually shaved not burnt when it is being produced. So you don’t have to worry about the smoke particles.
In conclusion, meat contains several important nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, fats, and minerals that are essentially required by the body to carry out vital metabolic reactions. All these nutrients help in providing us with loads of energy that maintain the general health of the body.
We only need to ensure that there is moderation. I recommend that you don’t eat too much of any particular food and always ensure that your diet is balanced.
Eat fruits and vegetables daily and try to do some exercise each day.
A healthy lifestyle is the only guarantee for a healthier life.
Have a great weekend.