More bad news for processed meat. A new report published by World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRFI) found for the first time that the consumption of processed meat increases a person’s risk of stomach cancer. According to evidence outlined in the report, eating 50g of processed meat per day—about two slices of bacon—increases the risk of stomach cancer by 18 percent, leading the organization to recommend the removal of processed meat from diets.
Foods preserved by salting—particularly Asian-style salted vegetables or dried salted fish—also were confirmed to be a cause of stomach cancer per the report. However, analysts say the evidence linking added salt as a cause of stomach cancer has become less strong.
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) also challenged the veracity of the report, stating that the report tries to attach the increased risk of stomach cancer to processed meats consumed by people who have had H. pylori infections, which commonly cause ulcers. A 2012 paper by Bryan et al. also identified H. pylori as a potential causative agent that warranted further study—not processed meats or the nitrite sometimes contained within them.
“Once again, we see an attempt to oversimplify the complex issues surrounding cancer causes,” says Betsy Booren, NAMI vice president of scientific affairs. “While WCRF’s press release is headline grabbing in fingering processed meats, a close read of the study and the full body of literature make clear that H. pylori appears to be of far greater concern than weak, theoretical risks associated with processed meats. Consumers can continue to enjoy processed meats as part of their healthy, balanced diet.”