A recent survey conducted with 2,000 adults has revealed that 27% of respondents are unconcerned about the potential health impact of consuming processed meat, particularly in relation to the risk of developing bowel cancer.
Processed meat refers to any type of meat that has undergone preservation methods such as smoking, curing, salting, or the addition of chemical preservatives. Examples include ham, bacon, sausages, and luncheon meats.
Chemicals like nitrates and nitrites, which are added to preserve processed meat, react with the body upon consumption. These reactions, among other factors, contribute to an increased risk of bowel cancer.
The survey also found that four out of five respondents identified themselves as meat-eaters, consuming an average of 40g of processed meat daily, with a quarter consuming more than 50g per day.
This research was commissioned by the World Cancer Research Fund for their Cancer Prevention Action Week, taking place from 20th to 26th February, which aims to raise awareness of the link between processed meat and bowel cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund’s analysis of global research indicates that regular consumption of processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer by 16% for every 50g consumed, compared to those who do not consume it. Furthermore, it suggests that processed meat consumption is linked to 14.5% of male and 10% of female bowel cancer cases.
Despite these findings, 58% of adults believe they consume an appropriate amount of processed meat, and only 24% feel they consume too much.
Dr Helen Croker, Head of Research Interpretation at the World Cancer Research Fund, emphasized the importance of prevention and raising awareness about the link between processed meat and bowel cancer. She encouraged people to participate in the Great British Sarnie Swap during Cancer Prevention Action Week, replacing processed meat in their sandwiches with healthier and affordable alternatives to reduce their risk of bowel cancer.
The research also revealed that only 53% of respondents have a rough idea of the ingredients used in processed meat, and 25% admitted to having no idea. Furthermore, 50% and 43% were aware that a sausage sandwich and a ham sandwich respectively contain processed meat.
The survey, conducted by OnePoll, identified bacon (66%), sausage (65%), and ham (63%) as the most commonly consumed processed meats among meat-eaters. Bacon (15%) also emerged as the nation’s favourite sandwich filling, followed by cheese (14%) and egg mayo (13%).
The main reasons cited for liking processed meat were taste (55%), cost (44%), and convenience (41%).
However, 48% of meat-eaters expressed a willingness to reduce their consumption of processed meat, with 67% of adults open to adopting healthier alternatives.
To assist individuals in making dietary changes, the World Cancer Research Fund encourages people to participate in the Great British Sarnie Swap and provides a fact sheet and quiz to address any confusion regarding processed meat.
Matt Lambert, Health Information and Promotion Manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, expressed delight at the number of people willing to substitute processed meat with healthier alternatives. The organization aims to assist individuals in making dietary changes by offering suggestions for healthier swaps. Affordable and healthy sandwich filling ideas are available on their website, acknowledging the significance of cost in food choices during the current economic climate.
The World Cancer Research Fund also provided tips to reduce the consumption of processed meat, including checking ingredient lists for terms like nitrate, nitrite, cured, or salted, reducing portion sizes, increasing the number of meat-free days, incorporating plant-based protein sources, choosing alternatives like chicken, turkey, or fish, increasing the consumption of vegetables, pulses, and whole grains, using spices to enhance flavor, and opting for alternatives to processed meat in sandwiches and breakfast options.
By making informed choices and adopting healthier eating habits, individuals can reduce their consumption of processed meat and lower their risk of bowel cancer.
Sam Allcock is the CEO of PR FIRE – PR & Content Marketing Platform
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