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Health2A typical day begins with frankfurters and eggs for breakfast, followed by nuggets in the children’s lunch boxes and maybe a bologna sandwich or burger as the evening snack. Who said life is not convenient?

But convenience comes with a price. Processed meat, which refers to meat that has gone through salting and various chemical processes to extend its shelf life, is bad for your health. According to a recent study, high consumption of processed meats can reduce life expectancy and here is why:

  • Processed meats are high in calories, fat and sodium. Served with heaps of mayonnaise and French fries (and quite often a soft drink), the meal causes your system to slow down and leads to weight gain.
  • Excessive salt in processed meat causes water retention and bloating. A single hotdog has more than three times the amount of sodium in comparison to a homemade meat sandwich. Sodium weakens your blood vessels and leads to hypertension, thus beginning a chain of events that may eventually cause heart disease.
  • High levels of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats are linked to decreased insulin secretion which affects the body’s blood glucose levels. A recent Harvard study showed that just one serving a day of processed meats (two slices of salami or four chicken nuggets) increases the risk for diabetes by 29%. More specifically, sodium nitrite (a colour enhancer used to make processed meats look fresh) is a known carcinogenic that leads to the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines in the body.
  • Another study that monitored participants for seven years revealed that people who regularly consumed processed meat had a 67% greater risk of pancreatic cancer and an increased incidence of stomach and colorectal cancers than those who ate it infrequently.
  • A detailed review of 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer has declared processed meats as a dangerous dietary option.

So you need to make the final decision. Is it going to be convenience or your health?

– Dr Summaiya Syed-Tariq
The writer is a senior forensic practitioner at the Police Surgeon Office, Karachi.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 24, 2013.