The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on the carcinogenic effect of processed meats is the result of research involving over 800 studies performed in different parts of the world. Their recommendation to reduce consumption should be considered in the general context of aiming for a better nutrition that allows for a longer, healthier life.
It is very easy to simply dismiss studies such as this one along with others occasionally published stating that a certain food, an activity or something people enjoy turns out to be bad for you. The instinct is to ignore any warning that sounds inconvenient, and people often exaggerate the facts in an attempt to convince themselves that scientific arguments are unfounded.
The report does not say that we need to become vegetarian to beat colon cancer but that ingesting bacon, ham and hot dogs, among other products, increases the chance of developing the disease. Considering the diet prevalent in the U.S., this advice should be taken seriously.
Some say that we are what we eat, as there is a direct connection between what we consume and our bodies. The Latino community ‒ in which obesity and diabetes are rampant ‒ knows this relationship very well.
Among the obstacles faced by immigrants when trying to adopt healthy eating habits are some of our countries’ culinary traditions, the high-fat diet so common in the U.S. and the ever-present junk food. The economic factor cannot be overlooked, as fast food is much cheaper and available than fruits and vegetables in poorer neighborhoods.
The WHO’s recommendation must be seen from a practical standpoint. It is not realistic to ask someone who has been a life-long carnivore to stop eating meat all of a sudden. It would be more logical to reduce the amount of bacon and to replace processed meat with chicken or fish. A balanced, nutritious diet accompanied by regular physical activity is the path to a healthy life. There is no need to deprive oneself of the pleasures of tasty food.