The World Health Organisation has declared bacon, ham and sausages as carcinogenic. Processed meats are now on the no-go list, which means that innocuous ham sandwich or sausage roll has been placed into the same deadly category as cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic. There are a number of foods that have been linked with cancer over the years. Read on to explore some of the most carcinogenic foods to avoid.
1. Processed meat and red meat
Cancer Research UK says that around a quarter of bowel cancer cases in men, and around a sixth in women, are linked to eating red or processed meat.
These foods contain a pigment called haem, which studies have shown could damage the cells in the bowel.
Processed meat (including ham, bacon, salami and sausages) is packed with fat and salt, and also contains nitrates, linked with bowel disruption.
The WHO has categorised foods into different classes according to how harmful they are to our health. Red meats and processed meats are some of the worst carcinogenic foods on the list.
Processed meats (e.g. sausages, ham and bacon) are Class 1 carcinogens, defined as ‘carcinogenic to humans’.
Red meats (e.g. beef, pork and lamb) are class 2 carcinogens, defined as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.
Probably time to ditch the sausage sarnie.
2. Microwave popcorn
Your favourite movie snack is under threat.
The chemical used in the non-stick coating on the inside of the popcorn bags has been found to decompose when cooked, producing a compound called perfluorooctanoic acid.
This acid has been linked with liver and prostate cancer.
A chemical called diacetyl, also found in microwave popcorn, can also cause scarring of the lungs and increases rates of a rare lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans.
This makes microwave popcorn one of the top 5 cancer-causing foods.
Breathe easy and choose another snack for movie night.
3. Canned foods, especially tomatoes
BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical found in plastics and cans which mimics oestrogen.
BPA has been shown to increase the risk of many cancers, and has also been linked with infertility, developmental problems, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
BPA is found in many household products, including plastic containers and metal food tins and cans.
So regular foods can be turned into cancer-causing foods simply by being stored in the wrong container.
The reason tomatoes are singled out for being particularly dangerous is because their high level of acidity.
The acids in the tomatoes can break down the BPA in the food can lining and cause it to leak into the food.
Look out for soup and tomatoes in tetra packs or glass jars instead of tins and plastic containers.
4. Cola and other fizzy pop
Loaded with sugar, weird chemicals and colourings, fizzy pop is highly acidic to the body, making it a heaven for cancer cells.
The caramel colouring in cola has also been linked with cancer, as it is made using the carcinogenic chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). According got the WHO, cola and other fizzy pops are cancer-causing drinks.
Drinking less than a can a day should be OK but if you guzzle cola or other dark-coloured pop every day as your main drink then it might be time to cut down.
Unfortunately, diet drinks are even worse: artificial sweeteners have been linked with birth defects and many cancers.
Fruit juice , anyone?
5. Refined White Flours and Sugars
Processed foods are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which cancer cells can quickly metabolise.
This means we should avoid cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits, muffins, pancakes and other highly processed foods .
White flours are common in processed foods and have a super high level of simple carbohydrate.
High consumption of such refined carbohydrates was linked to a 220% increase in breast cancer in a study published in the scientific research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention.
The lesson is that wholemeal always trumps white – and we should lay off the biscuits while we’re at it.
So there we have the top 5 cancer-causing foods, according to the WHO.
Depressed yet? Have no fear, there are many fantastic health boosting foods out there ready to fight the carcinogens and off-set the damage done by the above list.
Look out for our next blog post, which will introduce some of the best cancer-fighting foods.