I’m always telling my patients to pay closer attention to what they eat to decrease their risk of heart and other diseases. Lately, I’ve been telling them to watch how much of this particular type of food they eat to decrease their risk of both heart and colon disease. Let me tell you why eating too much of this food can be risky for your health…
Over 40 Grams of Processed Meats A Day Raises Your Risk
Who doesn’t love a good hot dog, salami or ham sandwich from the deli? And who doesn’t love a good bratwurst sausage cooked on the grill in the summer, or a few sausage links with their eggs? I know I do. So, you might imagine my dismay when I recently read some research linking sausages, and other processed meats, to a higher risk of both heart disease and colon cancer!
In fact, a recent study out of the University of Zurich Switzerland says your risk raises 18% for every 50 grams of processed meats you eat per day. If you ate as little as about 3.5 ounces of processed meats a day (100 grams), your risk would raise by 36%!
And that’s not all…
The study also linked about 3% of all premature deaths to the high consumption of processed meats. Ten countries participated in the study that looked at about 450,000 Europeans and the health results of their high consumption of processed meats – namely sausage, salami and ham.
The problem with processed meats comes from a carcinogen – nitrosamines – that is formed in the pickling and smoking process of these meats and is released through cooking. These carcinogenic substances are particularly problematic in esophageal and digestive tract cancers.
In addition, processed meats are also often loaded with saturated fats and cholesterol – both of which can be destructive to heart and colon health. People who eat more processed meats tend also to not exercise, consume more alcohol and smoke as well – behaviors that also contribute to poor health. Yet, even after the researchers took these facts into consideration, the study’s core findings still held true.
People who ate over 40 grams of processed meats a day (ham, salami, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, packaged lunch meat) had an increased risk of mortality as compared to those who ate less than 20 grams a day. The researchers concluded that if you ate up to 40 grams a day your risk of mortality doesn’t increase.
Just How Much is 40 Grams A Day?
In trying to calculate how much processed meats you might be able to eat a day for 40 grams, depending on how generous the manufacturer is, you could eat:
3/4 of a regular hot dog
Slightly more, or less, than 1 sausage link, at about 2 oz uncooked each
About 1-1/2 slices of thin ham
About 1-1/2 strips of uncooked bacon
After seeing how little 40 grams is, it doesn’t seem worth the effort eating them at all does it?
I prefer that my patients stay away from processed meats, or eat them as an occasional “treat.” When you do eat them, do yourself a favor and take about 250 mg of Vitamin C along with them. The antioxidant power of Vitamin C can neutralize the sodium nitrites in processed meats from turning into carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Some bacon products already include Vitamin C for this reason, but that doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to down half a pound for breakfast. The heart and colon clogging saturated fats and cholesterol are still there.
In addition, eating processed meats with a high fiber food like bran cereal, or high fiber bread, and vegetables, can help grab their heavier fats and move them out of your colon faster. Your heart and colon would be much better off if you just stick with fresh, unprocessed meats cooked at lower heat, more vegetables, moderate fruit, and a lot of water to adequately flush disease-causing toxins from your body.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.