Why is eating large amounts of processed meat bad for your health? It comes down to the toxic additives and preservatives
08/10/2021 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

The lean component of red meat is an excellent source of essential nutrients. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition & Dietetics, you can get vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12 from red meat, as well as minerals like iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. The lean component of red meat is also a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which offer significant benefits for your heart and brain. In addition, phytochemical analysis reveals that it is rich in endogenous antioxidants and bioactive components like taurine, carnitine, glutathione and creatine that support overall health.

But despite all of these nutritional benefits, eating large amounts of red meat is still considered unhealthy. This prompted a team of Spanish researchers to investigate why frequent consumption of red meat increases health risks. In their report, which appeared in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness, the researchers attributed its negative effects to the presence of "substances of safety concern" in various meat products. These harmful chemicals are linked to certain food additives and are generated when red meats are subjected to various types of processing.

The dangerous chemicals in red and processed meats

According to numerous studies, there is a clear link between high intake of red and processed meats and an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. Among these negative consequences, cancer is the most commonly associated with diets that include large portions of meat. (Related: RED MEAT and CANCER – more than just a “correlation”.)


In a 2015 report released by the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified all kinds of red meat (i.e., beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat) as Group 2A, or probably carcinogenic to humans, and processed meats (e.g., fried, salted, cured, fermented or smoked) as Group 1, or carcinogenic to humans. The IARC based their classification on limited evidence from epidemiological studies for red meat and sufficient evidence for processed meats.

To further explore existing evidence, the Spanish researchers reviewed studies that focused on the carcinogenic compounds found in meat products and the mechanisms by which they are generated. They listed the following toxic chemicals as substances of safety concern in meats:

According to the Spanish researchers, knowledge of these substances and their generation routes is important as it facilitates the assessment of the safety of meat products. It could also help food scientists come up with ways to reduce or eliminate the presence of these substances of concern in meats, making them much safer sources of nutrition.

Sources include:


OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com 1

OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com 2



ScienceDirect.com 1

ScienceDirect.com 2

ScienceDirect.com 3






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