There Is Bad, Bad News for People Who Love Bacon


Add "cancer" to the list of reasons why those delicious pork ribs may just kill you.

That was the final and very unappetizing conclusion from a World Health Organization report published Monday in the journal the Lancet Oncology. The findings didn't just stop with ribs, but included all red meat, such as pork, beef and lamb, as well as processed foods.

"A majority of the [study's authors] concluded that there is sufficient evidence in human beings for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of processed meat," the report stated (registration required).  

Processed meat generally involves some form of smoking, salting, brining, curing or other type of added preservative to augment taste or increase the product's shelf life. Unprocessed red meat was declared marginally better, but still "probably carcinogenic to humans." 

"I encourage people to do processed meat as little as possible," Shabnam Ahamed Greenfield, a registered dietician in New York City, told Mic. "I would say it is a big problem."

The findings, the result of 22 scientists working in 10 countries, analyzed 800 epidemiological studies from around the world, spanning a wide range of races ethnicities, as well as all genders.

The WHO results confirmed long-held suspicions within the medical community that the foods were a contributing factor in colorectal cancer. Every year, around 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease, leading to more than 50,000 deaths annually. That makes it the third greatest killer among men and women, according to American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 

"Prior to this, it's been an association," said Greenfield, "I don't know that cause and affect has ever been proved before."

The U.S. cattle industry denounced the findings, with vice president of scientific affairs at the North American Meat Institute Betsy Booren telling CNN, "[The WHO] tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome."

Mic/Getty Images

The news, however, was not all bad, with the report also noting some nutritional benefits to red meat, including what they called "important micronutrients" like B vitamins, iron and zinc. Greenfield too said she wouldn't put any food in the "never category," and red meat was no exception.

"Once a month," she said. "Three ounces."