The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that processed meat can cause the development of cancer.
WHO issued the statement following a study conducted by its cancer research department, the Washington Post reported.
According to WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the method involved in processing meat can lead to the build-up of carcinogenic chemicals.
For the study, the organization analyzed processed meats or those that went through smoking, fermentation, curing, salting and other methods used to enhance their flavor and maintain preservation. In other words, the research team looked at cold cuts, sausages, hot dogs, beef jerky, bacon and canned meat.
The researchers also studied red meat including beef, veal, goat, pork and lamb.
During the course of the study, the discovered that curing, salting and other processes increases the level of N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which increases the risk of cancer development.
Red meat can also develop carcinogenic compounds through high-temperature cooking such as grilling and frying.
According to the researchers, these chemicals could lead to the development of various diseases such as colorectal, stomach, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Despite their findings, the researchers noted that the report does not automatically suggest that people should drop meat completely from their daily diet. After all, eating red meat also has health benefits.
Instead, the researchers suggest cutting back the amount of processed and red meat people consume in a day.
However, unlike alcohol which has a recommended daily consumption limit, identifying the safe amount of meat the public can consume in a day is a bit complicated. This is because the effect of meat on the body depends on a variety of personal factors such as age, diet and physical activity.
This means a certain amount may be considered safe for one individual, but not for another person.
But, as noted by various health organizations, including the World Cancer Research Fund International, people should limit their red meat consumption to below 500 grams a week. And, as much as possible they should lessen the amount of processed meat that they eat.
"The risk increases with the amount consumed," Susan Gastpur of the American Cancer Society said according to the Washington Post.
"The best we can recommend is decreasing your consumption," she added.
Aside from this, they should also balance their diet with fruits and vegetables as well as engage in regular physical activity.
The report by the IARC was published on October 26 in the journal The Lancet Oncology.