How bacon causes negative health effects

WHO: processed meat carcinogenic?

According to a statement published at the end of October 2015, cancer researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO) attribute a carcinogenic potential to certain types of meat. Even so, there is no need for undue worry or panic.

Possible negative health effects from a high consumption of meat have long been known. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) has recommended for many years not to consume more than 300 to 600 grams of meat and meat products per week; the German population eats significantly more on average.

Less well known, however, is the distinction between processed and unprocessed meat in terms of meat eater health, which is made by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - the cancer researchers of the WHO.

Processed meat means that which is preserved for example by salting, fermenting, smoking or curing, such as salami, ham or sausages. The scientists are certain that these meat products can cause cancer and have therefore assigned them to group 1 "carcinogenic".

However, this classification only means that, from the researchers' point of view, there is sufficient evidence of a negative effect. How strong the effect and thus the risk of developing cancer is, is not described by this classification. For example, smoking is in the same group and one million people worldwide die each year as a result of cancer from tobacco smoke. With an estimated 34,000 cases worldwide, high consumption of processed meat is responsible for significantly fewer cancer deaths.

The researchers classified unprocessed red meat (muscle meat from beef, pork, sheep, horse or goat) in group 2 A - "probably carcinogenic".

Ultimately, it is always a question of quantity, i.e. how much meat and sausage products someone consumes. And of course the entire lifestyle (including exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, overall diet) is decisive for whether health is influenced positively or negatively.

Recommendations from the consumer advice center

In Germany, men eat an average of almost 1,100 grams of meat per week; With just under 600 grams, women at least comply with the upper limit of the DGE recommendation.

  • It is advisable to follow the recommended maximum of 300 to 600 grams per week when consuming meat. Cancer researchers do not call for a waiver either, but instead point out the relevance of the well-known recommendations to limit meat consumption.
  • You should prefer unprocessed meat and not overheat it.
  • A healthy lifestyle with sufficient exercise, a varied, predominantly plant-based selection of foods made from cereals and five servings of vegetables and fruit a day contributes to health and promotes well-being.