It’s no secret that most doctors will have no problem telling you how bad foods high in sugar and fat are for you. Now it seems, we can add processed foods that are high in nitrites to that list as well. At least, that’s what a group of doctors in the UK is saying.
The group is led by Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and a food scientist named Chris Elliott. Their team recently suggested that the chemicals found in meats like ham, salami, and bacon can cause cancer, and the threat should be addressed immediately.
The WHO (World Health Organization) released a report in 2015 that made similar claims. They suggested that as many as 34,000 deaths were caused each year by cancer contracted from processed meats. It would seem that the world as a whole has not heeded the WHO’s warnings in the years that have followed. The group led by Dr. Malhorta and Elliot say that in the UK alone, there are 6,600 cases of bowel cancer each year resulting from a diet high in processed meats. They’re asking that the issue receive the same kind of attention that foods high in sugar get.
The news isn’t exactly anything new. In fact, a similar study was conducted by Glasgow University, and the findings suggested that women who reduce their consumption of processed meats can also reduce their likelihood of developing breast cancer. It would also seem that the nitrites used in processed meats can affect more than just your cancer risk. A study at Johns Hopkins University linked a diet high in processed meats to an increase in mental health problems.
The basis for the concerns is relatively simple. Whenever meats are cured, they’re often injected with nitrites to prevent botulism and increase the storage life. Over time, those nitrites can turn into nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.
The answer, according to the coalition of the doctors in the UK, is to start curing the meats without using the nitrites. Furthermore, they want the government to treat the nitrite issue with the same urgency they currently treat foods high in sugar and fat.