According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18%. The panel ranked red meat lower, evaluating it as probably carcinogenic to humans, possibly causing bowel cancer. In most African countries meat consumption is generally low and a lot of fresh meat is consumed. However with a growing middle class in developing countries more and more people consume processed meat due to a faster life style and also as a symbol of their status. At all levels great amounts of smoked and grilled meat like suya (in Nigeria and Cameroon) is consumed, which according to the national cancer institute, NCI may contain cancer causing agent (professionally referred to as carcinogenic agents).
What is red meat?
Red meat as opposed to white meat contains more heme and looks red. For example beef (cow meat), goat meat, sheep meat is red meat. White meat generally contains less fat and heme and is found for example in chicken and turkey.
What is processed meat?
All meat (white or red) which has been altered to improve its taste or appearance or just for convenience is processed meat. When meat is preserved by smoking, curing or salting or by the addition of preservatives, cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) can be formed.
Processed meat is usually found in bacon, sausage, hot dogs, some hamburgers, corned beef, biltong, kilichi
This does not mean you shouldn’t eat meat at all, because meat contains besides protein other important nutrients for the body.
To reduce your risk of bowel/intestinal cancer, don’t consume processed meat every day.
Easy ways to eat less red and processed meat
- Keep a few days a week meat free
- Add beans or pulses such as kidney beans, soya beans and garden eggs. Use them to replace some of the meat in dishes.
- Eat more white meat (chicken, turkey)