Why do Processed Meat Products Cause Cancer?

As was mentioned in the previous post The Connection Between Processed Meats & Cancer, eating lots of preserved meats such as salami, bacon, cured ham and hot dogs could increase the risk of cancer by 50 percent.

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The reason preserved and processed meat products contribute to cancer are:

1. Nitrates

Processed meats contain sodium nitrate and sodium nitrites which are proven cancer causers, and absolute poison for the body.

Sodium nitrate is a precursor to highly carcinogenic nitrosamines — potent cancer-causing chemicals that accelerate the formation and growth of cancer cells throughout the body. When consumers eat sodium nitrite in popular meat products, nitrosamines are formed in the body where they promote the growth of various cancers.

Most preserved meats contain nitrates which are converted into a cancer causing agent, in the body. It is a scientific fact that nitrates when combined with stomach fluid create a powerful carcinogen called nitrosamine.

These carcinogenic compounds have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain and child leukemia. One study found that children eating more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.

This ingredient, which sounds harmless, is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. There, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs: the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970’s but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products.

Sodium nitrite is one of the most dangerous chemicals added to processed meats.

Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are two closely related chemicals used for centuries to preserve meat. While nitrate itself is harmless, it is readily converted to nitrite. When nitrite combines with compounds called secondary amines, it forms nitrosamines, extremely powerful cancer-causing chemicals. The chemical reaction occurs most readily at the high temperatures of frying. Nitrite has long been suspected as being a cause of stomach cancer.

When meat containing sodium nitrite is cooked at high temperatures the sodium nitrite causes the production of nitrosamines. Similarly, when meat containing sodium nitrite is eaten and encounters the high pH levels of the stomach nitrosamines are formed.

Nitrates don’t allow the blood to carry enough oxygen, and therefore, results in oxygen deficiency.

Doesn’t sodium nitrate occur naturally in foods like spinach, carrots and celery, as well?

Though nitrates in cured and processed meat have been associated with cancer, growing evidence suggests that foods naturally rich in nitrates are actually good for you. The vitamin C and D in these vegetables inhibits the formation of the N-nitrosamines. Consequently, vegetables containing normal levels of nitrates are quite safe and even help reduce the risk of cancer.

By converting to nitric oxide in the body, nitrates in vegetables, including beets, have been shown to dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow to tissue, reduce demand of muscles for oxygen, and inhibit blood clots.

Which processed meats contain nitrates?

Just about any processed meat contains sodium nitrite. The next time you’re at the grocery store, go take a look at the ingredients of various meats you find in the meats section like bacon, sausage, hamburger, salami, hot dogs, and even the healthy looking “97% fat free” lunch meats. You’ll find each processed meat contains the cancer causing preservative sodium nitrite.

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But regardless of the presence of nitrite or nitrosamines, the high-fat, high-sodium content of most processed meats should be enough to discourage you from choosing them. And don’t cook with bacon drippings.

Sodium nitrite is also found in green leafy vegetables. Here, though, it is thought that certain compounds also found in these vegetables prevent the conversion of sodium nitrite into nitrosamines.

2. Processed saturated fats

Processed meats  like sausage, specifically pork sausage,are loaded with fat  specifically saturated animal fat that is often contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals, pesticide residues and other dangerous substances.

It’s also seasoned with sometimes-suspect spices and chemicals. When it comes to meats, sausage is probably one of the worst offenders. And what’s worse, the European Food Safety Authority recently found that a red food coloring in cheap sausages, called Red 2G, could cause cancer. They’re not sure how much of the dye one can consume before things get critical, but it’s clear that it should be avoided.

The worst offender is bacon

Few people are immune to the mouthwatering smell of sizzling bacon. Bacon is, however, one of the highest-fat meats on the planet. Additionally, it’s cured with chemicals that have been linked to increased rates of cancer. More specifically, nitrosamines are to blame. These chemicals have been known to be carcinogenic in high quantities. Unfortunately, all bacon contains some of the preservative compound.

Damage control: Lay off the bacon. Only eat it on special occasions, just a few times a year. It’s really the only way to mitigate the risk of ingesting cancer-causing agents.

3. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a second dangerous chemical found in virtually all processed meat products. MSG is a dangerous excitotoxin linked to neurological disorders such as migraine headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, loss of appetite control, obesity and many other serious health conditions. Manufacturers use MSG to add flavor to dead-tasting processed meat products.

As an alternative

Look for nitrite-free processed meats — some of which are frozen, refrigeration reduces the need for nitrites — at some health food and grocery stores.

There are available some natural brands of smoked lox smoked sausage and cold cuts that contain no nitrates. You must read the package label!

If you reside in the USA you can order organic sausage online from Diamond Organics, and organic smoked lox from: Vital Choice.

You MUST read the ingredients list to find the sodium nitrite! Meat product companies do not list this ingredient on the front of the package.

Even ORGANIC meat products and NATURAL meat products can still contain sodium nitrite. So read the labels to be sure, and avoid buying any meat product made with sodium nitrite.

Be especially careful of food for kids! Virtually all packaged food products containing meat and marketed to children contain sodium nitrite! (Read the ingredients to protect your children.)

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