Most nutritionists agree that consuming processed meats correlate to potentially developing diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. But scientific research now suggests that enjoying too many savory steaks or juicy lamb chops can actually put you at higher risk for developing colon cancer. The reasoning behind this link relates to meat as a carcinogenic; primarily red meats and processed meats. But before you take a bite of that hamburger or cut into that steak, you should understand how and why eating certain meats can potentially put you at a higher risk for developing colon cancer.

Does Meat Cause Colon Cancer?

The short answer is: Yes, eating some meats too much can greatly increase your risk for colon cancer.  The question then becomes, which meats are safe to eat and at what frequency?  A good rule to stick to is to try to avoid eating processed meats more than once or twice per week.  And to limit your consumption of red meats to once per week as well.

What Meats Are Harmful?

Wing nights with friends or enjoying delicious seared duck at an upscale restaurant will not put you at risk for contracting colon cancer. What will, however, could be any type of red meat. This type of meat includes beef, lamb chops, pork, and even goat. Even processed meats such as bacon, pastrami, salami, sausages, hot dogs, canned ham, or dried meats like beef jerky, could pose more a threat to developing colon cancer. The term for all of these favorites are processed meats, which refers to the way manufacturers preserve meat by smoking, curing, salting, or adding other chemical additives.

Nitrates Are Harmful

Processed red meat such as bacon and pastrami contain nitrites as a means to preserve thereby; allowing grocery stores to keep them on their shelves for longer periods of time. When you take a look at meat, it often has pink or red appearance, hence the term “red meat.” This is due to compounds, which give meat the red color you see. Aside from preserving the color of meat, sodium Nitrate helps persevere flavor. This helps suppress fat oxidation and a process otherwise known as acidification. In addition, N-nitroso compounds formed from nitrites help prevent meat from spoiling. They also prevent the risk of food poisoning by killing residual bacteria on the meat. Although, there are many benefits to using this compound, there is a huge risk that N-nitroso may be carcinogenic.

How You Prepare Meat

Another risk factor for developing colon cancer lies in the method you use to cook meat. Since you cook red meat at high temperatures, typically above 266°F, it allows the compounds, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to form. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are dangerous compounds that form in the air, particularly when smoking meat, burning wood or charcoal, or from the dripping fat that burns on a hot surface on burnt or charred meat. PAHs are especially harmful and unhealthy because they can negatively affect people with genetically predisposed conditions, thereby placing them at a much higher risk of eventually developing colon cancer.

How Much Meat Should You Eat?

The key to preventing colon cancer lies in moderation. Just as you limit the amount of snack or junk food you consume, you should limit the amount of red or processed meat you consume. Simply put, if you limit yourself to eating these meats once a week, then you’re unlikely to increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Ideally, most nutritionists recommend limiting yourself to consuming approximately 500mgs of red meat.

While current research suggests a strong correlation between red meat and colon cancer, you must remember that red meat isn’t completely bad for your health. In fact, red meat contains a beneficial amount of protein, zinc, iron, and other essential nutrients and vitamins. Processed meat, on the other hand, is nutritionally dense and contains high amounts of salt and fat, which is unhealthy to any balanced diet. In the same manner that you limit the amount of junk food you eat, you should do your best to limit your intake of processed meats such as ham or bacon.

Modifying Your Diet

Chemical compounds aren’t strictly suspects of causing colon cancer. In fact, new research suggests that they’re the culprits behind other types of cancers as well. The meat preservation process causes harmful fumes, and ultimately changes meat by creating chemical compounds that aren’t naturally present in organic or fresh meat. By understanding how your meat is prepared and how eating a lot of red or processed meat for decades, you can potentially lower your risk of developing colon cancer and a plethora of other serious conditions. To learn how you can better manage your diet, contact a top GI doctor in Queens, NY today.