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Processed meat increases cancer risks

Processed meats have been in the news lately for their ability to increase stroke and cancer risks.

According to a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization, sausage, ham, jerky, bacon, and cold cuts cause cancer, and red meat probably does, too.

The panel that worked on the statement pored over more than 800 scientific studies to make its recommendation.

This group has been issuing these statements since the 1970s, and so far, they’ve classified almost 1,000 different kinds of things we come in contact with — from chemicals to foods to particles in air pollution. Substances are classified on a 5-tier scale:

Group 1:       Carcinogenic — causes cancer

Group 2A:    Probably causes cancer

Group 2B:    Possibly causes cancer

Group 3:      Can’t tell — not enough evidence

Group 4:      Doesn’t cause cancer

Processed meat is in group 1, and red meat is in group 2A, the IARC says.

Processed meats have long been linked to certain cancers of the digestive tract, especially colorectal and stomach cancers. So the IARC’s classification isn’t really surprising, but it does give the connection new weight.

“They are the definitive authority on the subject,” says David Katz, MD, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, in New Haven, CT.

“We’ve been advising against processed meat for a long time,” Katz says. “This is icing on that cake. I think it is important icing, just the same, but the cake was well baked before this report came out.”

Scientists can’t say exactly how much meat is too much, and the overall increase in risk is small. But they point out that your risk rises the more you eat.

Beef producers say the evidence behind the guidelines is weak at best. They point out that the 22 members of the panel that issued the recommendation were not in total agreement.

“Cancer is a complex disease that even the best and brightest minds don’t fully understand,” says Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, executive director of human nutrition research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“Billions of dollars have been spent on studies all over the world, and no single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer,” she says in a statement posted on the group’s web site.

Expert: ‘These Are Once-in-a-While Foods’

The panel determined there was enough evidence to put processed meats in the top tier of cancer risks — group 1 — alongside tobacco smoke and asbestos.

That doesn’t mean eating a hot dog is as risky as smoking, though. Instead, it means scientists are certain something causes cancer, not that the risks posed by those things are equal.

The group defined processed meats as those that are salted, cured, fermented, smoked, or otherwise treated either to enhance their flavor or keep them from spoiling.

Red meats were defined as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse or goat.

As much as half of the red meat eaten around the world is processed.

Scientists aren’t sure how, exactly, processed and red meats cause cancer. Certain chemicals are created when meats are cured and smoked that are known to increase cancer risk. Some cuts of red meat are higher in saturated fat, which is also linked to cancer. Finally, some cooking methods like grilling or frying that sear meat at high temperatures can create cancer-causing chemicals in meat.

The panel says the more processed and red meat a person eats, the higher their cancer risk.

Each daily 50-gram portion of processed meats — about the size of an average hot dog — increases the risk of colorectal cancers by 18%, the report says. Each daily, 100-gram portion of red meat — about one-quarter of a pound — raises colorectal cancer risk by 17%.

In absolute terms, the increased risk is pretty small. For example, the risk that a man will get colorectal cancer during the course of his lifetime is about 4.8%, on average — or said differently, about 1 in 21 men will develop it in his lifetime. A 17% increase in that risk bumps it up to 5.6%, or changes that risk to about 1 in 18 men.

By comparison, a 2005 study determined that smoking a single daily cigarette could increase a person’s risk of lung cancer by about 200% to 400%.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” says Kurt Straif, MD, head of the IARC Monographs Programme, in a news release.

Because colon cancers are slow growing, a person would probably need to eat that way over a period of years or even decades to see that degree of increase in their cancer risk, Katz notes.

“It’s really long periods of time that matter,” he says. “I don’t think anybody who once ate a hot dog needs to panic here.”

At the same time, the report is a good reminder to make red and processed meats occasional treats, not mealtime staples, says Marion Nestle, PhD, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.

“It means these are once-in-a-while foods, not every day,” Nestle says.

When meat is on the menu, the American Cancer Society recommends baking, broiling, or poaching, rather than frying or charbroiling, to reduce the formation of cancer-causing chemicals during the cooking process.


Children and multivitamins

Let’s get it clear, multivitamin supplement do not provide additional benefits for kids who eat good food regularly. In fact high doses of mineral or vitamins can cause damage to the body.

We should be careful while handling multivitamins pills because most of them made now are sweet and are often dangerously consumed as candies.

It is no longer a fancy idea giving multivitamins to children who do not have additional needs for them.

Circumstances when children may need their diet fortified with multivitamins include:

  •  Failure to thrive
  •  Certain chronic diseases  
  •  Food allergies
  •  Restrictive diet, such as a strict vegan diet
  •  Picky eaters

If multivitamins are advised, chose categories recommended for your child’s age.

Fresh foods rich in fruits, vegetables and fibres should be at the core of your child’s dietary plan. Also remember that vitamins and minerals found in foods are more potent than those present in pills. For example, why give vit C pills or gummies when your child loves oranges or watermelon.

If your children need multivitamins, we recommend the following:

Vitamin A

This vitamin is needed for normal growth and development;

It enhances tissue and bone repair

It is also necessary for  healthy skin, vision and immune responses.

Good sources include milk, cheese, eggs, and yellow-to-orange vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash.

Vitamin B (B2, B3, B6 and B12)

They aid needed for metabolism and energy production.

They also aid healthy circulatory and nervous systems.

Good sources = meat, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs, milk, beans and soybeans.

Vitamin C

They promote  healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin.

Good sources = oranges, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and green vegetables like broccoli.

Vitamin D

 Vitamin D is the most important vitamin for tooth and bone development

It also helps the body absorb calcium.

Good sources = milk and other fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and fish oil.

The best source of vitamin D doesn’t come from the diet — it’s sunlight.


Calcium is needed for strong bones.

Good sources =milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice.


Needed for building muscle and healthy red blood cells. Iron deficiency is a risk in adolescence. Good sources include beef and other red meats, turkey, pork, spinach, beans, and prunes.




War and armed conflicts are among the most important threats to health.  The three most important attributes of a good health system disrupted by conflict – healthcare availability, accessibility and affordability.

According to WHO, “The first principle of health is life. War is a direct threat to life.” (From a 2000 World Health Organization working paper). Presently deaths and deformities caused by wars and armed conflicts are more than those caused by diabetes or heart disease.

The impact of war on health is not just the mortalities and morbidities caused by direct assault on civilians and soldiers, but also, perhaps more important, by displacements and destruction of hospital services and healthcare staff.

Contamination and pollution of soil, water and air, inadequate sanitation, poor medical supplies and malnutrition which are common during wars all negatively impact here.

An estimated 191 million people died as a result of conflict during the 20th century, more than half of whom were civilians. Public health challenges faced in war extend beyond efforts to protect civilians’ security. They include preventing illness and death from inadequate or contaminated food or water, poor sanitation, lack of shelter, and disrupted or destroyed healthcare systems and other infrastructure necessary to sustain health… BM J (2019)

The most vulnerable groups  are women and children. Health indices (maternal, neonatal, infant and under five mortalities) soars during and post conflicts periods.

Understanding Vaccines

Vaccine Types

There are several different types of vaccines. Each type is designed to teach your immune system how to fight off certain kinds of germs — and the serious diseases they cause.

When scientists create vaccines, they consider:

  • How your immune system responds to the germ
  • Who needs to be vaccinated against the germ
  • The best technology or approach to create the vaccine

Based on a number of these factors, scientists decide which type of vaccine they will make. There are 4 main types of vaccines:

  • Live-attenuated vaccines
  • Inactivated vaccines
  • Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines
  • Toxoid vaccines

Live-attenuated vaccines

Live vaccines use a weakened (or attenuated) form of the germ that causes a disease.

Because these vaccines are so similar to the natural infection that they help prevent, they create a strong and long-lasting immune response. Just 1 or 2 doses of most live vaccines can give you a lifetime of protection against a germ and the disease it causes.

But live vaccines also have some limitations. For example:

  • Because they contain a small amount of the weakened live virus, some people should talk to their health care provider before receiving them, such as people with weakened immune systems, long-term health problems, or people who’ve had an organ transplant.
  • They need to be kept cool, so they don’t travel well. That means they can’t be used in countries with limited access to refrigerators.

Live vaccines are used to protect against:

Inactivated vaccines

Inactivated vaccines use the killed version of the germ that causes a disease.

Inactivated vaccines usually don’t provide immunity (protection) that’s as strong as live vaccines. So you may need several doses over time (booster shots) in order to get ongoing immunity against diseases.

Inactivated vaccines are used to protect against:

Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines

Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines use specific pieces of the germ — like its protein, sugar, or capsid (a casing around the germ).

Because these vaccines use only specific pieces of the germ, they give a very strong immune response that’s targeted to key parts of the germ. They can also be used on almost everyone who needs them, including people with weakened immune systems and long-term health problems.

One limitation of these vaccines is that you may need booster shots to get ongoing protection against diseases.

These vaccines are used to protect against:

Toxoid vaccines

Toxoid vaccines use a toxin (harmful product) made by the germ that causes a disease. They create immunity to the parts of the germ that cause a disease instead of the germ itself. That means the immune response is targeted to the toxin instead of the whole germ.

Like some other types of vaccines, you may need booster shots to get ongoing protection against diseases.

Toxoid vaccines are used to protect against: