The recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding bacon causing cancer has created widespread fear among meat lovers. With any report of this nature, we must take a deeper look at the evidence to separate fact from fiction (and media sensationalism).
We know that processed food is not ideal for our bodies. Processed food, by definition, is any sort of alteration to food which alters it from its native state. Processing is usually done in order to preserve food so that it has a longer shelf life. Examples of this include added salt and sugar, as well as other preservatives. In terms of processed meats, we typically see salting, smoking, or curing. This is why processed meats tend to be high in sodium, and often have added sugar.
The interesting thing about the WHO classification of bacon and other processed meats is that it considers them a class 1 carcinogen. This puts them in the same category as tobacco. Whoa! We know that smoking increases your risk of lung cancer by approximately 2,500 percent. In contrast, eating two slices of bacon per day for your entire life is thought to increase your risk of colorectal cancer by about 18 percent. The lifetime risk of colon cancer is about 5 percent overall, so eating bacon every day raises your risk to approximately 6 percent. It doesn’t seem so scary now, does it?
So, does bacon cause cancer? Technically, yes it does – but by a very small amount. I believe that the reason for this is due to the nitrates and nitrites found in most bacon. Nitrates and nitrites are involved in the curing process, and have been linked to other cancers such as stomach cancer. Thus, I recommend purchasing nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon. This healthier version of bacon will typically use celery juice instead, which I feel is better for us.
In addition to avoiding the nitrates and nitrites, I also advise purchasing organic bacon without added sugar. The organic aspect, coupled with the lack of sugar, makes it a lot healthier. This version, in my opinion, is unlikely to have any cancer-raising properties.