- This is fairly old in Internet years, but its a subject that comes up all the time. And of course, since my name is Bacon, eventually I’ll have to bring it up. So to do this, I wanted to just post the rather lengthy article I wrote last year, but turns out I’ll have to write it out manually here. So I’ll paraphrase my own old work for your benefit. Enjoy!
I was made aware of this article I debunked by a good friend of mine on Facebook who (surprise!) happens to be vegan! Her exact quote is “You may as well be rolling your bacon & lighting it up & smoking it.” She’s a wonderful person to be around and I do value her as a friend, but of course she knows jack shit about nutrition, else she wouldn’t be a vegan. Also, she wouldn’t have said what she said, and here’s why:
“””If anyone has seen this link you know exactly why I’m commenting on it; it’s an article by IFLScience (an aside, I trust them because they’re usually on their A game, so this is disappointing to me personally) stating that processed meats, heavily emphasizing bacon, are now classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and you can read it here:
If you don’t have much time to read much farther or are allergic to reading, here’s the short story: whole processed foods are generally bad for your health, bacon is not; so long as you don’t burn it, which WILL make it cancerous), it’s far better for you than the average vegan will let on.
Look, I understand the average person was told to believe that anything that isn’t green is bad for you, so stories like this tend to jumpbout and confirm that. And while I’m certainly not saying that processed food in generally are healthy or that vegetables aren’t, articles like this are very misguiding and only make things worse.
So what is it that makes people think bacon is bad for you? The main 3 reasons are usually its fat content, the salt used to cure it, and the nitrates to help preserve it. Let’s take those down one by one:
1. Fat content: When people bring this up, they usually mean saturated fat. Without writing an entire article about this, the statement that saturated fat is bad for you is a myth (I can go into detail about this later). Either way, that only makes up about 40% of it’s total fat content; the remainder is about 10% polyunsaturated and 50% monounsaturated, which youay recognize as the fat that makes extra virgin olive oil so healthy.
2. Salt: Its true that eating a lot if salt can temporarily increase your blood pressure,l, but unless you’re drinking concentrated salt Kool-Aid, there is no strong evidence that salt causes hypertension or heart disease.
3. Nitrates: This is something I talked about before. Nitrates/nitrites by themselves do not cause cancer. However, if the food with it is overcooked they can turn into a compound called nitrosamine, which is definitely carcinogenic. Some companies add vitamin C, which helps mitigate it’s formation. Takeaway message: don’t burn your bacon! And for that matter, it’s probably not a good idea to burn the veggies you eat either, since vegetables are the primary source of the nitrates used for meat preservation (don’t believe me? Look at the packs of bacon and hot dogs with natural preservatives; see if they don’t say they’re from celery or cherry..)
Something that should be noted: smoke is obviously carcinogenic, so if your bacon has been smoked (that would be many brands of packaged bacon)it may have more carcinogens and therefore is more likely to cause cancer. And if you’re concerned about having too much sodium in your diet (from perhaps a medical condition) you always have the option of buying uncured bacon. But to say that Bacon and other meat products, like pork sausage and ham, since salami generally doesn’t use nitirites for preservation) cause cancer is simply untrue.
With all of that said, why does the WHO (more accurately the IARC which is a part of WHO, but WHO is more easily recognized and generates more clicks) say processed meat is more carcinogenic? To putnit simply, the screwup is the classic confusion of correlation and causation. The people that tend to consume large amounts of processed meat are alsobthe most likely to smoke (cigarettes), less likely to be physically active, and all around more prone to live a less healthy lifestyle. To put it another way, the person eating a lot of Bacon probably isn’t eating it with eggs or asparagus, but rather in a McDonald’s cheeseburger with fries and a coke; the guy having salami isn’t getting it as a snack with aged white cheddar, but as a topping on a pizza from Domino’s. And since classifies it as “any meat that has been modified to increase the shelf-life or to improve it’s taste”, technically that means marinating your beef tenderloin in the fridge makes it a processed meat, and between that and the sausage links from Denny’s, it doesn’t take a genius to point out the difference between the two.
It’s counterproductive to just demonize processed meat when the problem is consuming large amounts of processed food in general. Specifically foods that contain large amounts of sugar, vegetable oil, wheat or trans fats. If your bacon comes on a burger patty that’s half soy protein and and oil, covered with cheese (excuse me, “pasteurized process food product”) mixed with corn oil, sandwiched between bread made with degermed and pulverized wheat flour, and served with fried cooked with partially hydrogenated canola rape seed oil, of course you’re more at risk for cancer, as well as every other disease currently reaching epidemic levels. But if you’re blaming the bacon, you’re blaming the least of your problems, because COME ON, DIDN’T YOU READ THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH?
One last thing I found particularly interesting is the type of cancer they’re blaming red and processed meat for specifically is colorectal (bowel) cancer, which ties in nicely with the standard demonization of anything that’s not plants. They included a link on this type of cancer as well:
Thus website makes 3 lists of the top 20 countries that report colorectal cancer, one for both sexes and one each for male and female populations. Care to guess where the good old U.S. of A. ranked? 1st, right? Maybe 2nd? Surely not below 9th? How about NOT EVEN ON THE LIST? That’s right: GE fattest country on the planet doesn’t even rank the top 10 on even one of the lists, which again was linked on IFLS as proof that “Bacon is evil and causes cancer!!!!!”
So which countries were there? The ones ranked near the top were the Chech Republic, Slovakia, Korea, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. And while there are differences between the average diet of these countries, one thing they all have in common is they all are low in red and processed meats, with the last 3 countries up there actually having a diet named after their countries’ region. So even in their website I could make a point the exact same way they did and say that processed meat actually reduces the risk of bowel cancer, since the countries where people that seldom eat them seem to contract this type of cancer the most, and potentially be wrong in the exact same way. (By the way: this is on top of the more recent data that says that even if your risk of colorectal cancer goes up 18%, that brings up your risk of getting that cancer in your lifetime from 5% to 6%. Yeah, eating smoked meats gives you a whopping 1% extra chance of getting a specific kind of cancer. And you compare it to goddamn smoking?)
Did I miss anything? Do you think I’m wrong or mistaken? Feel free to let me know! Though honestly speaking I doubt most of the people that would disagree will even get past the first link, let alone read to this point. So everyone that thinks eggs cause diabetes and I might as well roll bacon up and smoke it, I’ll be making the exact same point next week. See you then!”””
… Wow. That was written a while ago and I really didn’t have to change much if anything there, save for a few misspellings and some additions. I’m willing to bet a lot of people today, should they read this before the year 2020, will probably still repeat the mantra of “don’t eat too much saturated fat, its bad for you, bacon will give you cancer, etc….” Hey, that’s one reason I’m rewriting this: once mainstream media and science finally tells you what I am saying here and what other smart people have been saying for years, you’ll realize: I was right!
That’s all for now. Cheers!