You must have noticed in movies and series that Americans’ breakfast is very caloric, rich in sugars and fats. One of the dishes that stands out in this meal is bacon, usually served with eggs. But since 2015, including this food in the first meal of the day has become as dangerous as lighting a cigarette.
That’s because the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that bacon has as much carcinogenic potential as cigarettes. However, truth be told: this food was not alone on the WHO list, as the entity warned about the danger of all processed meats such as salami, sausages, hams, etc.
What makes these foods carcinogenic?
According to the WHO, consuming 50 grams of processed meats daily would increase the chances of getting bowel cancer by 18% over the years. An estimate from the British newspaper The Guardian on the subject revealed that the consumption of these foods would have been responsible for about 34 thousand deaths per year.
When processing these meats to enhance flavor, through smoking, salting and curing, for example, companies include elements that were not present in the food before, such as nitrates and nitrites, in addition to salt.
The human body even knows how to handle nitrates and nitrites. Nitrate, for example, helps form saliva and the rest is eliminated in the urine. Nitrite has been associated with diseases caused by failures in hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. It turns out that nitrites generate another substance called nitrosamine, which is highly carcinogenic.
How did the WHO come to the conclusion that bacon is bad?
To include processed meats in its list of potentially carcinogenic products, the WHO reviewed no more than 400 studies, from ten different countries, on the topic. This means that the entity studied diagnoses and diseases of thousands of people, generating a database that corroborated the hypothesis that these foods can increase the risk of bowel cancer.
What is the incidence of bowel cancer in Brazil?
According to data from the National Cancer Institute (Inca), every year, about 40,000 Brazilians discover that they have bowel cancer. It is the third most popular type of cancer in the country.
Also according to the Inca, 30% of these people would not have dealt with the disease if they had had a healthier diet, with less consumption of processed foods. Inca projects the amount of R$ 1 billion as the amount needed for the treatment of bowel cancer in the year 2030 by the SUS.
The WHO recommendation caused bacon consumption to plummet in the UK in 2015. Supermarkets reported a £3 million drop in sales. However, weeks later, consumption rose again.