Is it time to give up the bacon butty?

The longer you spend writing a blog and researching this topic, the more you realise that a lot of the information out there is simply unsubstantiated. That doesn’t mean that what you are reading is wrong, it just means that it is limited in terms of it being backed up by credible sources. So imagine the surprise yesterday when the World Health Organisation (WHO) published its findings in relation to the carcinogenic properties of processed meat. Then when the BBC decided to run it as one of its main news stories of the day (click here to see the article), as well as CNN, NBC and many others, the whole health and fitness community sat up and listened. 

The truth is that we have known that processed meats should be avoided where possible for a while now. In fact the entire informed community has long been recommending that people choose to eat wholefoods wherever possible. And I would be lying if I hadn’t heard the claims that too much can directly increase your chances of getting cancer. But that didn’t take away from yesterday’s shock.

The thing is that a lot of people didn’t realise just how little you had to eat to be putting yourself in danger, or what foods actually counted as processed. So to hear that two slices of bacon a day is enough to increase the chance of getting bowel cancer by 18{e247ef2f99dfc0bc75e074b1ac933c200478cf8913d2da2bbe9d5daddf1eb195} caught a lot of people by surprise. Not only that, the WHO also said that red meats as a whole were “probably carcinogenic”. All this just two weeks after I posted about the West’s potential over-consumption of red meat.

The first thing you need to get your head around is what actually qualifies as processed meat. For it to be processed the meat has to actually be changed in order to make it last longer without going out of date, or to make it taste differently. Just cutting meat up and presenting it in a different way doesn’t count!

All this doesn’t take away from the positive impact that eating red meat has of course. The, “told you so”, tone that was being shown on Twitter yesterday seemed a little premature and that proved to be the case when going on to read the full report. As we’ve been saying for years red meat is a vital source for a number of micronutrients that are essential as part of a healthy nutritional plan, including iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

In reality we are still very far away from knowing exactly what causes cancer. I mean, if we knew exactly what caused it then we could make it impossible to get, right? So this is one of a number of factors. So does it mean that you have to give up bacon, sausages and you Full English on a Sunday for good?

You have to make your decisions based on what your goals are. Some people choose to drink alcohol and smoke knowing that will probably contribute to their death and yet still see relatively positive results in the gym. But somebody who can avoid having that weekend drink and who can give up smoking is obviously going to find their training to be significantly easier.

Our recommendation here is to try and eat wholefoods wherever possible. They can taste so good on their own it doesn’t really make sense to risk your success, and now clearly your health.That being said, the odd bacon sandwich will not be written up as the cause of death when we are gone.

The good thing is that this information is out there and being reported by credible sources. I always say that one cheat meal isn’t going to ruin your training but at the same time you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of the things that you probably love to have if you want to make a real go of getting in shape and staying that way!

Ollie Lawrence
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