Parents beware – common foods that you feed your children may actually increase their cancer risk. These foods include hot dogs, ham, pepperoni, sausage, salami, and even ground beef that’s sold in many grocery stores across the country.
For the last decade, these processed meats and foods have been scrutinized for their high sodium content and use of sodium nitrate. And just in the last few years, research has found that these processed foods are directly linked to cancer.
If you have ever known anyone with cancer, you know just how painful and long the journey is. No one wants their child to be diagnosed with cancer, and you definitely don’t want to purposefully increase your child’s future risk of developing a potentially dangerous – and in some cases, terminal – disease.
Processed Meats Directly Linked to Cancer
In 2007, The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) completed a detailed review of over 7,000 clinical studies that looked at the link between diet and cancer. They found that processed meats – i.e. bacon, hot dogs, sausage, sandwich meats, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami, and virtually all red meats used in frozen meals (unless they are labeled nitrate-free) – are made with sodium nitrate and these foods increase your cancer risk.
Sodium nitrate is a preservative added to processed meats to prevent spoilage, and it also gives cured meats their characteristic color and flavor. Previous studies have linked sodium nitrate to increasing your heart disease risk and possibly making you more likely to develop diabetes (nitrates affect how your body uses sugar).
Because sodium nitrate forms “nitrosamines” (a carcinogen) in the human body, this preservative has a direct link to causing cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund’s Diet Recommendations
The World Cancer Research Fund startled the health world with the conclusion that processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption. According to the organization’s website, they recommend that all consumers “limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.” They argue that you should eat no more than 300 grams (11 ounces) of red meat a week – very little of this meat (if any) should be processed.
One of the clinical studies that the World Cancer Research Fund looked at included a 2005 study from the University of Hawaii that found that eating processed meats increased your risk of pancreatic cancer (a terminal diagnosis) by 67 percent. Other studies the World Cancer Research Fund examined included a study that found that for every 50 grams of processed meat that you eat every day, this increases your colon cancer risk by 50 percent.
(The cancer risks in these studies did not come from eating fresh, non-processed meats, but from regularly consumed processed meat products with sodium nitrate.)
A New Study Links Processed Foods with Throat and Stomach Cancer
Earlier this month, a new study published in a November 2010 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers found that people who ate red meat on a regular basis had a greater risk of developing throat and stomach cancer, compared to people who limited their intake of steak and hamburgers. This 2010 study followed 500,000 Americans for an entire decade – so it should not be taken lightly.
Tips for Concerned Parents
With all this supporting research, it may be a wise decision for all parents to limit their children’s intake of processed foods. While you can’t always convince your kids to stick to eating healthy veggies instead of that steaming hot pepperoni pizza or hot dog, you can do your best to prepare healthy dinners and lunches.
When grocery shopping, you may want to find a local farmer nearby – or one near your town, even if it is a longer drive. You can also head to the local butchers and try to find meats that rely on traditional methods of curing and preserving.
If that’s not an option, why not limit how many processed foods that your family eats? Moderation is key – don’t beat up yourself for allowing your kids to have that hamburger occasionally. Buy organic food if your budget allows, or head to the local farmer’s market for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Consuming a diet that is high in vitamin C and vitamin E will help your body and your children’s bodies stop the breakdown of sodium nitrate into nitrosamines (carcinogen). This may help limit your risk.
Have other healthy tips? Share them in the comments below!
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