How to eat bacon without killing yourself

A new medical study finds that limiting processed meat intake to less than an ounce a day cuts the risk of cancer and early death.

By Jason Notte Mar 8, 2013 9:56AM
Close-up of bacon strips (© Alice Day/The Food Passionate/Corbis)Twenty grams. That's 0.7 ounces here in the U.S. and, as Gawker points out, translates to a strip of bacon, a small sausage, a thin slice of ham or 20% of a hamburger. It's also how much processed meat the typical person can eat a day without increasing the risk of developing cancer and dying early.

That's not exactly a fun fact for the world's omnivores, but then again the world isn't a very fun place for meat eaters these days.

Nor it likely to cheer up McDonald's (MCD) and other fast-food chains or packaged-food companies like Kraft (KRFT) or Hormel (HRL) that count on an eager market for processed meats.

And meat is a particularly touchy subject now in Europe. After all, horse meat has appeared in Burger King (BKWhamburgers, Wal-Mart (WMTbolognese, Ikea sausage and meatballs and other supposedly beefy dishes from Nestlé (NSRGY) and others.  

A new study from the University of Zurich published in the journal BMC Medicine found that people who eat large amounts of processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and hamburger, are 72% more likely to die from heart disease, 11% more likely to die from cancer and 44% more likely to die prematurely in general. If those same folks can cut their consumption to 0.7 ounces of meat a day, researchers say it should prevent 3% of all premature deaths.

They're not advising that folks cut red meat out of their diet altogether because it does contain important minerals and nutrients. But this latest study backs up a similar one by the World Cancer Research Fund in 2007 that found consumption of bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami and some sausages heightened the risk of bowel cancer. That group advised meat eaters to restrict their processed meat intake to 10 grams a day.

As The Guardian points out, however, that particular study elicited pained howls from the meat industry, which said the mean cancer research folks were picking on them by surveying only 4,100 people in Britain.

Well, the new study surveyed nearly 500,000 people in 10 European countries. While this is certainly tougher to swallow for Great Britain, where The Express and Olive Magazine report that the bacon sandwich is the No. 1 snack, it's not as if the country has had a problem shying away from processed meat of late. According to market research firm Kantar, frozen hamburger sales in the U.K. have dropped 43% since the horse meat scandal broke.

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Mar 8, 2013 11:48AM
At some point these alarm bells need to be shut off and ignored.  If I'm eating bacon, which I rarely do, I having a lot more than one measley strip.  The issue is frequentcy not amount.  If I eat bacon 6 times a year as opposed to six days a week, it doesn't matter one bit how much I eat.  None.
Mar 8, 2013 12:25PM

When I think processed meat, I think packaged deli slices. Rarely d I think bacon.  I'll take the risk.  My grandparents have been eating bacon since the dinosaurs roamed the earth, and they are almost 90, and almost 80 respectively.  And besides problems from smoking and general age related wear, they are the picture of health. 


They drank from glass bottles, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, they ate veggies right off of the vine, Didn't exercise every day of their life, and are healthy.  I think I'll eat like my grandparents, not like the "science" says I should.



Mar 8, 2013 10:26AM
It's Obama's fault.  If he wasn't president, bacon would be a health food. 
Mar 8, 2013 10:59AM
The writer talks about hamburger - but ground beef is not "processed", so should not be maligned.  Processed meat is cured meat, like bacon and sausage.
Mar 8, 2013 1:21PM
Eating satiating amounts of delicious meats your whole life far outweighs the boredom of eating .7 ounces of bacon to attempt to delay your inevitable death. Quality of life is more important than prolonging a tasteless existence.
Mar 8, 2013 1:46PM
My grandfather liked bacon. He said that it oiled his joints. He lived to 93.
Mar 8, 2013 1:36PM
I did a bit of research on this and what they left of this article was that "processed meat" was the only thing they followed in the study. It was pointed out that people who eat processed meat daily are more likely to eat an overall poorer diet, more likely to smoke, and not exercise (all factors overlooked). In other words, it's the overall "not living a healthy lifestyle" that can cause heart and other issues.
Mar 8, 2013 1:21PM

Reminds me of the neighborhood doctor who told an 87 year old woman to stop smoking.  I asked him if it would add another 10 minutes to her life? Finally i bought her a bottle of blackberry brandy  and told her to continue to smoke her three Carlton cigarettes a day.  She lived until she was 96. Some of these  articles lack common sense.


Mar 8, 2013 1:28PM

Just a couple of weeks ago I read that the one thing people who live to be 100 is

that they all eat bacon.

Mar 8, 2013 12:05PM
I know whats in my hamburger because the butcher up the street makes it out of steaks fresh growned daily. By the way, I have had horse meat and its not all that bad. Its just a little more pink than beef and seems to have a sweet taste. I just want to know whats in my food, not that I wouldnt eat it if it was just listed on the lable.
Mar 8, 2013 3:31PM
IT'S BAD FOR YOU!  thats how they got tobacco.  That's how they'll get everything else.  The only thing that will NEVER be bad for us is  more work and less pay.
Mar 8, 2013 7:55PM
I love bacon, spam, ham, smoked meat, smoked sausages, dried beef, pastrami, salami, all types of fried food, BBQ, beer and cigars.  I am beyond middle age and my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol is good, heart is strong and I take no medication, except for them blue pills to get my iron back when I am traveling overseas.  I say it is all in your genes (or sometimes hanging over your jeans). 
Mar 8, 2013 10:49AM

My maternal grandfather was a country butcher specializing in veal.  But he did do some slaughtering of pigs.  My mother use to tell be that in the 1930's you couldn't give bacon away, not even to the poor people during the depression.  No one wanted it.


And turkey was a great delicacy.  Unlike today, there were no massive turkey farms.  My grandmother would try to raise turkeys, starting out with nine or ten.  She was lucky if she would have two come to maturity.  You see, if the turkeys experienced a chill or got cold, they would huddle so closely together, they would suffocate themselves....Guess that's where the saying "dumb as a turkey" comes from. HAHAHAHA

Mar 8, 2013 2:53PM
I eat and do what I like!!!!!! what is the point of living longer not doing what you want? If you don't do what you like for 60 years why would you want to live another 20 not doing what you like?
Mar 8, 2013 4:08PM
There is no such thing as "too much bacon!"
Mar 8, 2013 11:34AM

Kind of an "old wive's tale" about Turkeys drowning themselves in a rainstorm...Maybe ??


And little baby ducks and geese with their downy feathers...Float pretty well.

Kinda like abobber..

But I'm sure there are a few exceptions? On Turkeys and ducks.


Yeah Turkeys (domestic) really aren't too bright...And they can suffocate themselves if too crowded, die if get chilled and strange birds to raise...Wild ones are almost entirely opposite..

We have and neighbors raised all above, with Wild ones in our woods and fields around here.

Mar 9, 2013 11:58AM

They focus on the process meats but don't talk about the chemicals in the process meats being the problem. Fact more soldiers died in World War I from food poisoning then from combat.  Cancer is a slow death but food poisoning takes your life much quicker. So if the government is so concerned about our health change the laws for food processing.  Oh wait that would make them responsible and in politics doing nothing is less risky than actually doing their job.  

Mar 8, 2013 8:45PM
Tell you what. I'll have that weekly bacon cheese burger and throw away those carefree 80-90 years. I'd rather sit down to a nice meal than sit in a doctor's office for ten more years.
Mar 8, 2013 11:36AM
Take Turkey and wrap it with Bacon..Makes a nice sandwich..Or heart attack.?
Mar 8, 2013 12:45PM
Everyone should quit the meat so that everyone will be alive to see obamas exit!!!!
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