To Your Health: Bringing Home the Bacon – Or Not

To Your Health: Bringing Home the Bacon – Or Not

So what’s up with the scary headlines about bacon?


Should eggs AND bacon become a thing of the past to protect your health?

Let’s try to put all the noise in context.

In October, 2015, 22 scientists from 10 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, to evaluate cancer risk from the consumption of red and processed meat.

Red meat refers to unprocessed mammalian muscle meat—for example, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, or goat meat—including minced or frozen meat; it is usually consumed cooked.

Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other, well, processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but might also  other red meats, poultry, offal (e.g., liver), or meat byproducts such as blood.

The mean intake of red meat by those who consume those products is about 50–100 grams per person per day, with high consumption equaling more than 200 grams per person per day.

Data were also available for more than 15 types of cancer. Positive associations were seen in cohort studies and population-based, case-controlled studies between consumption of red meat and cancers of the pancreas, colon, and the prostate (mainly advanced prostate cancer) and between consumption of processed meat and cancer of the stomach as well.

With regard to colon cancer, there was a 17% increased risk per 100 grams per day of red meat; an 18% increase per 50 grams per day of processed meat.

So just how big is a 100 gram burger or steak?

You probably wouldn’t be happy if you ordered a steak and it came out at a whopping 3.52 ounces. Typically your dish would be over twice that size, which means you would be consuming a 200-gram portion of red meat – with a side of a marked increase in the risk of colon cancer.

Rates/enhanced risk are even worse for processed meats.

Smokers have an even greater risk of cancer: women smokers having an increased risk of 32 percent; men, 41 percent.

A sedentary lifestyle can also lead to development of colon cancer. Most active people have a lower risk of colon cancer—in two studies, half the risk—compared to less active people.


Exercise may lower the levels of a certain hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E2 that accelerates colon cell proliferation and slows intestinal motility.

Now back to the, ahem, meat of this story. Why is meat potentially dangerous in terms of cancer?

Iron in meat works as a catalyst, turning nitrites which are added as preservatives into a particular kind of carcinogen. Grilling meat on an open flame possibly explains part of that increased risk: carcinogens formation could be enhanced by cooking at high-heat temperatures or in direct contact with a flame.

Caveat emptor.

Editor’s Note:

Our relationship with Dr. Alan Safdi started several years ago when we attended a Wellness Conference at The Peaks Resort & Spa. Dr. Safdi, is a gastroenterologist with a talent for offering evidence-based medical findings for healthy living in easily digestible sound bytes. We next heard him speak at Telluride First’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Conference, where the audience got just taste of his encyclopedic knowledge on mind-body wellness. To fill in the gaps, Telluride Inside… and Out plans to post nuggets from Dr. Safdi regularly.

More about Dr. Alan Safdi: 


Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi is a speaker, contributor and serves on the advisory board of the Telluride First Foundation.

He is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and is a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, he has been featured on the national program, “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. He has been an investigator in over 581 studies and is President of both the Consultants For Clinical Research and the Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute.

Dr. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for about 35 years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastoenterology.

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