Editorials

Oh-so-good bacon not so good for you — maybe

Planning to enjoy a footlong dog while watching the World Series this week? The World Health Organization just threw a soggy bun on that idea, saying that eating processed meats like hot dogs and bacon increases your risk of colon and stomach cancer.

What a bunch of killjoys. As one Internet wag put it, “Vegetarians live up to nine years longer than meat-eaters. Nine horrible, worthless, baconless years.”

The purveyors of processed meats are scoffing at the WHO’s announcement Monday that research has found their products to be carcinogenic. But let’s face it; did anyone ever really think those things are actually good for you?

It’s not beyond belief that nitrates, chemicals commonly used to preserve everything from hot dogs and sausages to ham and bacon, might very well have adverse effects. If those chemicals can keep something edible that otherwise would rot within a few hours, think what they could be doing over time to your own meaty innards.

In fact, says the WHO, a couple of slices of bacon daily increases colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent. (And yes, if you eat a lot of processed meat you definitely should not put off that colonoscopy.)

The WHO’s announcement probably won’t inspire a lot of people to completely give up their beloved bacon, Spam, kielbasa and other processed meats. But it very likely could get many of us to at least cut back. Attention to the role sugary soft drinks play in childhood obesity and diabetes has paid off in lower consumption, so a similar effect could happen with publicity about processed meat.

There have been so many studies that contradict earlier ones — eggs and coffee aren’t so bad for you after all — that Americans can’t be blamed if many of them take this latest one with a grain of salt. The grain of salt that turned out not to be quite as lethal as we were once told.

For all we know, some university will come out with a study in a few years that says bacon is the secret to long life. Anyone who switched over to tofu dogs might feel a little silly, especially if the same study pegs tofu as carcinogenic.

The best advice nutritionists give is to practice moderation. Have a hot dog or bacon every once in a while, just not every day. Eat more non-red meat, fish, beans and green, leafy vegetables. And try to eat more like a Greek and less like an American on the Baseball Game Diet.

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