Red meat is classified as a carcinogen. For those who are unaware, carcinogens are agents and substances that are known to cause various types of cancers in humans. If an individual is exposed to carcinogens, it does not necessarily guarantee that they will develop cancer or a cancer related disease, but it does increase their risk. Some carcinogens have a greater cancer causing capacity than others, and the frequency of exposure is also relevant.
Processed meats, the flesh products of chicken, cattle, pigs, goat and deer, are all products that increase the risk of developing cancers. The chemical processing that flesh products are subjected to, which usually involves curing, drastically contributes to their adverse health effects. In most curing practices, meats are treated with various chemicals that make them easier to preserve or that improve their taste or both. The first of many chemicals used to treat meats is nitrate.
Nitrate In Processed Meat Stimulates Cancer Growth
Nitrate is curing agent commonly applied in meat factories. Nitrates are used to imbue meat with its flavor, taste and notorious smell. Nitrates are also believed to lessen the contamination risks associated with uncured meats and meat products. The effects of nitrates have known negative impacts on human health. Microorganisms in human gut microbiomes convert nitrate to nitrite. When nitrites interact with amines and amides in the gastrointestinal, they form N-nitroso compounds. However, some N-nitroso compounds, like those found in tobacco and alcohol products, are correlated with gastric and stomach cancers.
Is Heme Iron Bad For You?
Heme iron is another chemical in flesh products associated with health risks and cancer. Heme can produce N-nitroso compounds, which are potent carcinogens. In developed countries that have meat-rich diets, the incidences of esophageal adenocarcinoma rank more high than in less developed, more vegetarian cultures. Majority cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon are adenocarcinomas.
While iron is a key mineral required for adequate blood cell delivery and aiding in hormonal growth, it too can be of detriment to cellular health. Adequate dietary iron is essential, iron is also a pro-oxidant. In high amounts, dietary iron can cause oxidative stress and free radical production. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging. Excess heme iron is linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammatory disease.