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Is eating processed carbs and processed meat worse for your health than smoking cigarettes?

Processed meat

(NaturalNews) High-fat, high-protein, low-carb diets are currently in vogue with millions of Americans who are making the switch from "cheap" calories in an attempt to shed the pounds and increase their quality of life. Is it all just another trendy weight-loss fad, or is there merit in avoiding carbs from the perspective of also avoiding chronic diseases down the road?

Science continues to show that diets low in carbs and sugar, as well as in red meat, may be beneficial in protecting against chronic disease – so much so, that even cigarette smoking pales in comparison to the potential health risks, believe it or not. A recent study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention executes this point perfectly.

Researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that high-glycemic carbs may play a role in carcinogenesis, meaning that they can lead to the formation of cancer cells. Lung cancer risk in particular is exacerbated in individuals who consume a heavy glycemic load, which includes things like refined flours and processed sugars.

Based on an assessment of nearly 2,000 people living in the Houston area who had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, the researchers found that those whose diets contained the highest amounts of high-glycemic foods were 49 percent more likely than others to be diagnosed with the condition. The risk was even more pronounced in patients who described themselves as "never smokers."

"The link between foods with high glycemic index and lung cancer was especially strong among people who said they had never smoked, or had smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their life," reports CNN. "Consumption of these foods was associated with 2.25 times greater likelihood of having lung cancer among 'never smokers,' but it only increased the risk by 31% among smokers."

Red meat – and more importantly red meat preservatives – increases cancer risk

Cancer risk is also intricately linked to processed meat consumption, according to some earlier studies. More specifically, red meat that's been processed using chemicals like sodium nitrite are a recipe for cancer, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).

A WHO advisory committee met in 2014 to assess the health risks associated with red meat, and came to the conclusion that processed meats are linked to "small increases" in cancer risk. Though small, these risks are important public health considerations, and the international body has recommended that health agencies around the world take note.

WHO also warns that cooking meat at high temperatures contributes to carcinogenic risk, due to the formation of cancer-causing compounds like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs), which are generated when meats are cooked on a barbecue or grill. Acrylamides are also high-risk compounds that form when foods are cooked at high temperatures through frying, roasting or baking.

Processed meat is particularly problematic when it comes to colorectal cancer risk. Some of the most recent estimates released by the Global Burden of Disease Project, an independent academic research organization, suggest that upwards of 34,000 people die every year from cancers caused by diets high in processed meat – hence the importance of efforts to curb consumption.

What about red meat in general? WHO says that a cancer risk has yet to be concretely established, but also notes that correlative evidence may eventually translate into causal evidence indicting red meat as possibly increasing cancer risk.

"Eating red meat has not yet been established as a cause of cancer," says WHO. "However, if the reported associations were proven to be causal, the Global Burden of Disease Project has estimated that diets high in red meat could be responsible for 50 000 cancer deaths per year worldwide."

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