Eating processed red meat has been linked to an increased risk of developing several types of cancer. Animal studies have identified a number of substances that could explain this relationship, including heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrogen compounds derived from the use of nitrates and nitrites.
The dangers of consuming processed meat
Studies show that people whose diets have the highest amount of total dietary nitrites (from all sources, whether or not of meat origin), as well as those whose diets have a higher amount of food-grade nitrites have between 28-29% More risk of developing bladder cancer compared to those who consumed less of this compound. This association between nitrate / nitrite consumption and the risk of bladder cancer may explain why other studies have found an association between processed meat consumption and an increased risk of bladder cancer.
One of the difficulties in measuring the effect of consumption of processed or non-processed meat on health is the confounding factor that can be caused by the combination of meat consumption with a more or less healthy lifestyle. Often, vegetarians have healthy lifestyles, healthier than the general population, are less likely to smoke, their body fat percentage is usually lower and they are physically more active. Only a large study could determine the consequences that the consumption of meat and processed meat can have on our health isolated from other lifestyles.
In the European Prospective Study on diet, cancer and health (EPIC) and research on diet and cancer in Europe ten countries participated and 23 centers in Europe with a share of almost half a million people. The results of this study show that, in general, a diet rich in processed meat was linked to other unhealthy habits. Men and women who ate more processed meat ate fewer fruits and vegetables and were more likely to smoke. Men who consumed a large amount of meat also tended to have high alcohol consumption.
The risk of premature death increased with the amount of processed meat that was ingesting. Valid result in the study after eliminating those factors, which as we have commented can lead to confusion. However, a small amount of red meat, according to the results of the study, seems to be beneficial to health because it is a food with a significant amount of nutrients, nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and proteins of high biological value, as we know, value Determined among other factors by its content in essential amino acids, bioavailability, etc.
The list of foods that have been clearly identified as associated with an increased risk of cancer is much smaller:
Alcohol (increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and liver) and salty fish in the Cantonese style (increases the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer).
Frequent consumption of red meat, mainly of beef, is associated with a relatively small increase in the risk of colorectal cancer,
High-salt diet probably increases the risk of stomach cancer.
For other food groups, such as animal and vegetable fats, calories, vitamins and micronutrients, condiments and cooking methods, there is still insufficient evidence on the relationship with cancer, and can only be considered as probable, possible or Insufficient.
Important associations such as fat consumption and breast cancer9 and colon and rectum cancer remain unclear, as well as the association between alcohol consumption with colon and rectum cancer, gastric cancer and cancer of breast.
As for the protective effect of fruits and vegetables, and other food factors, the studies coincide in an important point:
First, at present there are not enough scientific bases to justify the use of vitamin supplements for cancer prevention, although such supplements contain a wide and varied combination of vitamins and minerals abundant in vegetables and fruits.
Secondly, it is necessary to investigate in depth the biological mechanisms and the relationship between vegetables, fruits and other foods and the process of cancerogenesis.