The report states that 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.
The report states that 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. Think Stock

Don't ban the bacon, weigh up your eating habits

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) caused an outcry from meat lovers from around the world when it declared bacon, and a list of other processed meats, carcinogenic, and likened them to cigarettes.

The report states that 50g of processed meat a day - less than two slices of bacon - increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

It also stated that red meats were "probably carcinogenic", but there was limited evidence to support this claim.

CQUniversity nutritional psychologist Dr Talitha Best said despite the new findings, the slur on red and processed meats may not be helpful to the average consumer.

"It is important to think about the role of foods, including meat, as one element in the matrix of dietary components that can have both negative and positive effects for health," he said.

"In all the discussion about the impact of red meat - it is really important to remember that no one nutrient is an island, every nutrient and food contains a matrix of components that are involved in a range of physiological systems in the body and brain.

"Whilst the thought of cancer raises fear for many people, isolating one food group as the silver bullet that either causes, or conversely, prevents cancer is not helpful."

She said it was also important to consider what is not eaten as well as what is eaten when considering the impact of food and dietary patterns on health.

"There is strong emerging evidence that a Mediterranean diet, made up of high intakes of fruits and vegetables, plant food and seafood, confers long-term benefits for physical and cognitive health. Interestingly, the diet also includes low/moderate intake of lean red meat, alcohol, saturated fats and sugar. 

"So while these foods are included, what is not eaten is a high intake of processed foods and saturated fats, including processed grains and meat, and refined sugars. Moderation is the key."

Dr Best said it was important to consider and evaluate habitual dietary patterns, rather than avoiding or eliminating one food group.

"Science is uncovering more and more about the complex interactions between dietary components and the way in which the food matrix impacts the function of body and brain, from cellular interactions, digestive health, hormones, neurotransmitters and immune function, to brain-gut-behaviour changes with food," she said.

"So before ruling out any specific food group, consider your intake and how often you eat it, and look at the relationship of those foods within the balance of your habitual dietary pattern."



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