A particular type of processed food that’s eaten by most of us may be delicious, but its health effects are so serious you shouldn’t go near it.
This type of food has been linked to mental health issues, cancer, premature death, cellular aging, heart failure, asthma… The list is mind blowing.
What is this toxic junk?
The foods I’m talking about are processed meats – hot dogs, bacon, salami, bologna, etc.. Even ham, which graces many holiday tables.
You’ll find these foods at most picnics, in kids’ lunches and at every ballpark in the country. And you should avoid them like the plague. Because that’s what they are.
Leads to Strange Behavior
Researchers have long known that these treats are not healthy, but some of the most recent research is turning up even more reasons to be concerned.
For instance, a study at Johns Hopkins links the nitrates used to cure and preserve these foods to mania – a hyperactive, unreasonably euphoric mental state.1 People who have bipolar disorder can experience this senseless burst of energy and euphoria – often alternating with deep depression – and it also occurs in other psychiatric disorders.
The basic problem, say the scientists, seems to be that the nitrates change the type of bacteria living in the digestive tract, and the shift in bacteria affects the brain.
The researchers warn that manic episodes can result in life-threatening risky behavior, delusional thinking and persistent insomnia. Mania can also lead to hospitalization. The Hopkins lab tests found the same sort of behavior in animals that had consumed nitrates – and the behavior problems showed up after a mere two weeks of feeding on the chemicals. The rodents consumed the human equivalent of just one beef jerky stick or hot dog a day.
Mania, Processed Meats, and Hospital Stays
A previous study had shown that people hospitalized for mania have a history of eating processed meat prior to their hospitalization that was 3.5 times greater than people who do not suffer from a psychiatric disorder.
The researchers couldn’t find any other type of food that was significantly linked to mania or other psychiatric disorders.
“We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out,” says researcher Robert Yolken.
Bad For Both Body and Mind
Along with these concerns about the effects of processed meat on psychiatric disturbances, a whole host of other research shows processed meat –
- Boosts the risk of dying sooner: A study conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich shows that consuming processed meat can shorten your life expectancy. This research, which involved about half a million people, shows that your risk of premature death increases with each bite of processed meat.2 “Overall, we estimate that 3% of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20 grams of processed meat (about a half a slice of salami) per day,” says researcher Sabine Rohrmann.
- Ages cells by shortening telomeres: Research at the University of Michigan demonstrates that eating processed meats ages cells faster.3 This investigation found that those eating more processed meat had shorter telomeres – structures that protect the ends of chromosomes and defend against DNA damage. Short telomeres are a well-known marker of age. The processed meat effect was more pronounced in women than men.
- Can increase cancer risk: Tests at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that processed meat can significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer.4 The study of 18,000 people discovered that one-third of us are genetically predisposed to this problem.
- Linked to heart failure: An analysis in Sweden shows that every daily 50-gram increase in processed meat (such as a slice of processed ham) increases the risk of heart failure by eight percent and the chances of death from heart failure by 38 percent.5
- Makes asthma problems worse: In a study on asthma sufferers, French researchers found that folks who eat the most processed meat have asthma symptoms like breathing difficulties, chest tightness and shortness of breath 76 percent worse than those who eat the least.6
By now, if you are at all health conscious, you should understand processed meats are a serious problem. I understand they’re traditional treats – particularly at outdoor events – and not necessarily something we think of as a chemical-laden factory food. But staying healthy is a treat too. That’s why unprocessed meat is always a better choice.