WHY is processed MEAT bad for you?

  • Home
  • WHY is processed MEAT bad for you?

WHY is processed MEAT bad for you?

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that processed meats raise the risk of colon and stomach cancer.  The “Global Burden of Disease Project”, an independent academic research organization,  claims about 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.

But Why?

Few articles mention specific reasons why processed meat is considered bad for your body.  There are several: 1) nitrates and other chemicals, 2) overcooking and  3) overeating.

1) Nitrates & Food Born Chemicals

You’ve probably heard that processed meat contain nitrates and nitrites which are preservatives added to processed meat to help prevent the growth of bacteria.   “When meat is processed it can result in formation of carcinogenic chemicals, including N-nitroso-compounds (NOC) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH).  Cooking improves the digestibility and palatability of meat but overcooking can produce known or suspected carcinogens, including Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and PAH,” 1    according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group.

A study done with 61,433 women from Sweden compared the consumption of processed meats and unprocessed meats. They found a high correlation between the risk of stomach cancer and consumption of processed meats high in nitrosamines. 2

Other chemicals that can be created  (bio activated) from processing and cooking are HCA and PAH.  Both are carcinogens with the ability to damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer.

How?   Meat naturally contains amino acids, creatine and sugars which react at high temperatures to create HCA.  Processed meat, especially when grilled and smoked, create a high PAH content.  Studies suggest that the increase of PAH content arises from pyrolysis of fat at high grilling temperatures. 3

2) Overcooking

Overcooking the meat to create a Maillard (browning) effect can create Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE). Maillard is a non-enzymatic reaction that occurs at high temperatures. AGE increases oxidative stress and inflammation within the body which contribute to the development of many diseases. High AGE consumption has been associated with pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. 4   Human intervention studies revealed that low AGE diets decreased inflammatory status in individuals with diseases.

3) Overeating

Too much of anything can be harmful to your body. Americans in general have a high meat consuming diet averaging 50-100g  per day per person. 5    By comparison, the US Department of Agriculture Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of dietary protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. That is equivalent to about 5-6 ounces of a protein containing food such as nuts, eggs, beans, or meat. Eating less protein, thus eating less red meat can elongate our lives and decrease the risk of developing cancer. A meta-analysis of studies indicated that an increase of 100g of red meat increased the risk of colorectal cancer to 12-17%. The risk for colorectal cancer had a 49% increase when consuming 25g of processed meat. 6   Therefore, eating red meat in moderation and limiting your intake of processed meat may prevent the development of colorectal cancer.

On the plus side

Meat does have proven nutritional benefits such as protein, vitamin  B complex and minerals (iron, zinc) all of which are important to healthy body function.  Red meat in a grass fed form is clearly not as bad for you as processed meat.

If you are going to eat red meat some tips to help make it safer to consume are:

  • Marinate the meat – it helps tenderize the meat and decrease the formation of AGE
  • Boil, poach, or stew at lower heats to decrease the formation of AGE, HCA, & PAH
  • Be aware that grilling or barbequing your meat will create HCA and smoking and charring will create PAH


When you eat meat do you have problems digesting it?   The stomach secretes Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) to both digest protein and activate other digestive enzymes. If your stomach doesn’t produce the right amount of enzymes then it can lead to digestive issues and certain nutrients are not able to be absorbed.

Spectrazyme  (by Metagenics) is a supplement that provides your body the proper amount of enzymes to help break down food. Spectrazyme is an enzyme aimed to provide digestive support. Its three active ingredients are protease, lipase, and amylase. Protease is an enzyme that breaks down protein. Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down sugars and starches. Lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fats. If you believe this product can be helpful for your digestion then you can buy it through National Candida Center at      http://bit.ly/1Mu5U5K

Next time you choose to eat red meat think about how you can cook it to create the least amount of chemicals and limit your intake. Processed meat is to be eaten at your own risk. Take care of your body. It’s the only thing that will be with for your whole life.



  1. Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. World Health Organization. 2015 http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/ (Accessed Nov. 6, 2015)
  1. Larsson, S. C., Bergkvist, L., & Wolk, A. Processed meat consumption, dietary nitrosamines and stomach cancer risk in a cohort of Swedish women. International Journal of Cancer. Journal International Du Cancer , 2006: 119 (4), 915–919. http://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.21925
  1. Zhang Y, Ding J, Shen G, et al. Dietary and inhalation exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and urinary excretion of monohydroxy metabolites – a controlled case study in Beijing, China. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987). 2014;184:515-522. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2013.10.005.
  1. Hoffman R, Gerber M. Food Processing and the Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7925-7964. doi:10.3390/nu7095371.
  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division. Food balance. http://faostat3.fao.org/browse/FB/*/E ; 2015. (accessed November 5, 2015.)
  1. Manjinder S. Sandhu, Ian R. White, Klim McPherson. Systematic Review of the Prospective Cohort Studies on Meat Consumption and Colorectal Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analytical Approach. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: American Association for Cancer Research. 2001; 10: 439–446.