WHO Announcement – What It Means and How to Adjust


The WHO (World Health Organization) broke many people’s hearts on October 26, 2015 when it announced that processed meats cause cancer. Who doesn’t love a great steak? Bacon and eggs? Jets Dog? Corned beef sandwich? Heck, even a turkey breast sandwich on rye? Yum!

Specifically, the WHO stated that eating processed meat such as sausages and ham causes cancer, while unprocessed red meat may also be carcinogenic. The WHO’s cancer research unit now classifies processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” based on evidence from hundreds of studies, and linked it specifically to colon, or colorectal, cancer. The report outlined that eating 50 grams of processed meat each day — the equivalent of two slices of ham or a few slices of bacon — can increase the risk of these cancers by 18%.

To be fair, there are many other things can be just as, if not more harmful, than enjoying your Keg prime rib roast. By not exercising, having a diet lacking adequate fruit and vegetables, sun tanning and smoking can all increase your risk of getting cancer. This also doesn’t take into consideration other potential risk factors including gender, family history and age.

That said, now that we have this information, what do we do about it? To start with, we need to know what exactly is a “processed meat”?  The WHO defines processed meat as “any type of meat that is salted, cured or smoked to enhance its flavor or preserve it. Processed meat generally contains pork or beef, but may also contain poultry.” Red meat refers to “all types of mammalian muscle meat,” such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.

Sadly, my fear is that the people that will take this information to heart have likely already made this change to their diets. It has been suggested for years that eating too much red meat is not good for you. People should choose lean, unprocessed white meats and fish more often for overall better health. In addition, many of us already knew that bologna and other processed food are packed with chemicals to make them a) last longer and b) taste better. So those of us that already knew all of this will only be slightly affected by this announcement.

Will it really make a difference with the masses? If someone is driving thru a burger joint for the King Burger with Cheese, or are regularly frying up hamburger to add to a “Helper”, are they really going to stop these food choices because of this announcement? My fear is no. For there are so many other things that we know are killing us but people still continue to choose them as a part of their lives. Even if you are uneducated on the topic of health, you can pick up a package of cigarettes and see images of people and organs dying. But people still smoke. However, at least the information to try to make us healthier is out there.

Part of the problem with making the change into our daily routines is information and suggestions for realistic changes or substitutions. From school lunches to quick family meals, here are some suggestions for healthier alternatives to some of our newly “forbidden” foods.

Instead of: Bologna, salami or corned beef sandwiches

Try: Sliced chicken/turkey (unprocessed, not sandwich meat), tuna, cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches

Instead of: Hot dogs, hamburgers

Try: Homemade turkey, chicken or veggie burgers or dogs

Instead of: Hamburger helper with ground beef

Try: Hamburger helper with ground chicken or turkey or even Tuna Helper

Instead of: “lunchables”

Try: Homemade bento box! You can include a variety of healthy choices including veggies and dip, hummus and pita (a complete protein together), fruit and cheese.

Thankfully the WHO is looking out for us and continuing to help make us all healthier. At Fit Communications, we are trying to do the same thing for Canadians by sharing knowledge such as this announcement to help reach more people. Please share this blog post with others so that we can all work towards leading our healthiest lives.

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