Carnivores everywhere went into a frenzy at the news earlier this week: Processed meat can cause cancer; red meat probably causes cancer.
The headlines were in response to a recent study by the World Health Organization. Among the unappetizing findings: Eating up to 50 mg of processed meat a day (such as a few strips of bacon) can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
So, what does this all mean? Will your bacon kill you?
Well, it can be hard to say, according to The Washington Post. Cariogenic chemicals, like the ones found in cigarette smoke, get built up in processed meats during smoking or curing. However, that’s not to say that eating beef jerky is the same as smoking a cigarette. It means that the WHO has found what it believes to be a clear link between the two activities and cancer.
Also, there’s a big difference between a meal once a month at a steakhouse and a meal once a day of three hot dogs.
The news isn’t quite as bad for red meat. Researchers do raise grave concerns about the association between red meat and several forms of cancer. However, they make the claim based on “limited evidence” that red meat is “probably” carcinogenic. We guess that’s somewhat of a silver lining … right? Keep in mind that processed meat was in a similar category before these recent findings.
The WHO also isn’t totally condemning red meat, either. Even in their release, the researchers note, “red meat has nutritional value” and encouraged public health organizations to limit recommended servings—not banish meat-eating entirely.