Bill Cosby once stated, “Did you ever see the customers in health-food stores? They are pale, skinny people who look half dead. In a steak house, you see robust, ruddy people. They’re dying, of course, but they look terrific.” On average, Americans consume about 8 oz. of meat a day, twice the amount as the rest of the world; about one-sixth of the total meat consumed, U.S being less than one-twentieth of the population. Meat is generally delicious, contains rich sources of proteins and minerals. Some nutritional diet programs like the Atkins Diet have linked certain types of meat-based diets to weight loss. On the contrary, eating too much meat has been linked to certain type of cancers, high cholesterol and an increased risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Americans need to recognize that diets high in meat increases the cancer risk and other health issues. Evidence suggested that consuming meat could damage the body. In a country known for its love for hamburgers and steak, consumers need to cut down on their meat for a healthy life.
Consumers also need to understand grilling meat increase the risk of cancer. Part of the solution is eating healthy, but consumers also should be aware of what they’re eating. The big issue in America is quantity. Eating meat and fast-food meat on a daily basis for seven days a week, 365 days a year, is a big reason why the risk for cancer and other health diseases is dangerously high in U.S. United States slaughters more than 10 billion land animals every year (Freston 802), and the market research firm Packed Facts stated Americans spends 142 billion dollar on beef, chicken, pork, lamb at market retails. Eating too much red meat has been linked to increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, according to a study from American Cancer Society, the more red meat you eat will increase the risk for cancer. A Journal published by the American Medical Association reported a 20-year study of nearly 149,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 74. Researchers examine the risk according to how much red meat, poultry, or fish the people had eaten.
Researchers looked at how many people develop colon cancer after the study. The results were 30% to 40% are more likely to develop cancer in the lower part of the colon. People who ate the most processed meats were 50% more likely to develop colon cancer (Parish 6). Eating just three ounces meat a day increases the consumer’s chance of dying by 13 percent, and 20 percent increase if eating processed meat, like bacon and hot dogs. But it doesn’t mean we should completely cut out meat in our diet; these statistics demonstrates that the less meat you eat, the better. Consuming meat damages the body. According to Dr. Oz, from the Dr. Oz Show, eating a steak dinner can take two to three days to get out of your intestines (par. 3). Red meat takes more than 24 hours to completely digest. In the mean time, it is in your intestine rotting at 98 degrees, sending toxins through the body.
Eating any food that does not completely digest will ruin your health. What happens is that the human stomach acids are not made to break meat down efficiently because of its high fat and protein contents. The body lacks the enzymes that digest proteins in the stomach. Protein digestion mainly takes place in the first section of the small intestines where the pancreas secretes the types of digestive enzymes to help break down nutrients into energy and allow the nutrients molecules enter the bloodstream. Hence, meat takes longer as it has to pass into the stomach and the intestines, opposed to carbohydrates, which are broken down easily by saliva and the stomach. Although red meat is digestible than any other food sources such as rice and vegetable, it remains in the digestive system for a longer period of time, leaving the meat to rot in your intestines. Dr Klein believes that animal protein is the primary cause for the inflammation of the intestines because meat rots in your stomach (4).
It explains why eating animal protein for a long period of time can increase the risk of colon cancer. Also the kidneys work to remove excess protein from your body. Eating too much protein can stress out the kidney, leading to kidney damage. Grilling meat is a method that most people are familiar with. Grilling is part of American culture; it brings family and friends together for the holidays like Independence Day. Grilling is a method of cooking food hot and fast on your grill. Burgers, poultry, beef, seafood are typically grilled. Grilling is actually a much healthier option than frying food because it is low fat and you can grill food without adding oil on them. But unfortunately, grilling food may potentially introduce the risk for cancer. Those juicy hamburgers, especially the charred ones contains cancer causing chemical called carcinogen. When you grill meat, some of the fat drips down to the charcoal or flame and the smoke carry the carcinogen known heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic armomatic hydrocarbons (PAH) to form.
These compounds have been shown to affect our DNA and might cause cancer. PAH is the same smoke from forest fires, coal burning, car exhaust and smoking. Exposure to high amounts of PAH is dangerous to your health and long term exposure increase the risk of cancer. According to 2007 study in Epidemiology, women with high intakes of grilled, barbecued or smoked meats over their lifetime had a 74 percent chance of developing breast cancer (373). It is also important to not that these women has low intake of fruits and vegetables. Most people are not aware of the carcinogen when they are grilling the meat. But let’s face it, grilled meat taste good and people should not give up on their grass fed steak or burgers from the grill. There are couple ways to grill safely and reducing carcinogen. 1. Marinating meats for at least several hours that contains herb and spices can dramatically reduce HCA.
Herbs/spices is highly potent antioxidant that helps prevent HCA formation. 2. Pre-cook the meat in either the oven or microwave and finish it on the grill to decrease the amount of the carcinogen. 3. Pick leaner cuts like skinless chicken, lean beef or pork; it decreases the fat from dripping down on the open flame. It also important to remember that well-done meat has a higher concentration of carcinogen. Medium-rare, or medium cook is healthier choice than well done. These tips to reduce and prevent carcinogen is a safe way to consume grilled meat, but what about restaurants that serves grilled meats? Unfortunately, the meat holds carcinogens. Study shows restaurant meat such as burgers, ribs, and chicken carry substantial amounts of carcinogen. Few years ago, KFC calls their new Grilled Chicken “the better-for-you chicken for health- conscious customers.”
But a PCRM a test shows the grilled chicken contains a high level of carcinogen (Sullivan 12). Consumers eating grilled chicken from popular restaurant chains are exposed to substantial level of carcinogen. A study published in Nutrition and Cancers show that an independent laboratory examined one hundred samples from seven popular restaurants, and Phip, a carcinogen, was found in all the samples (33). These findings clearly show that eating grill chicken can potentially cause cancer. Consumers deserve to know what they’re eating is just as worse as a greasy high-fat fried chicken. It misleads consumers to think grilled chicken is healthy diet but in actuality a grilled chicken salad can increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other dangerous health disease. If that the case, shouldn’t the government or chain restaurant provide warning labels on their product? Since Tobacco Company labels their pack with a warning that cigarette causes cancer; restaurants serving cancer-causing meat should do the same.
When parents cook chicken for their children, they try to be health conscious. If people knew there were high levels of carcinogens in their grilled chicken, they may not choose it as a healthy alternative. Meat is part of American culture; Western men often forge a strong link between eating meat and masculinity. Eating too much meat is a common problem in American Society. I believe most Americans don’t realize that they’re eating too much meat. When comparing the size of the burger we’re eating today to the past decades, our burger has gotten bigger. Bacon is a big part of American culture today. It brings child-hood memories of how mothers cooked bacon for their children. It is also a common breakfast food and is often associated with family gatherings. But, eating bacon every single day of your life has life threatening repercussion to your health. Most processed meat like bacon or hot dogs contains sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate is a food additive used in many processed meats.
It increases shelf life, gives any meat a fresh appearance, improves the smoky flavors of bacon, and slows the rate of the foul smell, and reduces bacteria (Kortboyer 5). It seems sodium nitrate is a great additive but it is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient. It is a highly carcinogenic chemical and once it enters the human digestive system; it release toxin to a number of internal organs including liver and pancreas. USDA tried to ban sodium nitrate in the 1970’s but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained that they are trying to ban bacon from America and insisted the additive was safe. The sodium nitrate is found in almost every meat package. It’s listed right on processed meat products like bacon, turkey, hot dogs, and meats in canned soups. If it’s so dangerous, why does food manufactures use it? It sells more meat products because it makes the meat appear fresh and vibrant.
Consumers are often influenced by the appearance of the meat, and sadly they will buy meat that looks fresh because of the additives, but in reality, the meat could be months old. A proven strategy to help combat sodium nitrates is to consume large doses of vitamin C and E before your meal. Another safe alternative is purchasing nitrite-free meat to reduce the exposure to sodium nitrate. But, meat without nitrates is prone to spoilage. I believe meat industry uses the saturated fat argument to distract consumers from real issues like cancer. Fruits with high saturated fat like coconut juice wont increase a person risk of cancer to jump up 50%. The real issue is what’s added to the meat during processing and packaging. While eating too much meat can be dangerous, the solution is to consume less. Meat is rich in protein and the body needs protein to maintain cellular tissue. Reducing meat intake benefits the bones. According to Dr. Campbell of Cornell University, animal sourced proteins extract more calcium from the bones, causing the bone to weaken (par. 4).
Another good benefit of cutting back on meat is it that makes the consumer eat more nutritious foods. A study from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that participants who were served a meal with less meat ate more vegetables (Rolls 916). Eating small portions of good quality meat can help curb meat cravings and will not jeopardize the health. Many health education websites like Meatless Mondays offer idea of cutting back on meat consumptions. Another healthy alternative is replacing meat with non-meat sources of protein. Small red beans, black beans, legumes, dairy products are all good source of protein. While fish and seafood are technically meats, they do not carry the same risks as red meat, chicken, and pork because they contain low saturated fat and cholesterol.
Non-meat protein not only has low saturated fat and cholesterol, they contain healthy fats, vitamins and minerals the body needs. Besides, the average person only needs about eight grams of protein per 20 lbs of body weight. Make no mistake, Americans love eating meats. Meat is essential part of a healthy diet, but over consumption of meat will kill you. America spends hundred of billion dollars on meat and it’s no wonder why cancer is epidemic in United States.
Meat is considered a luxury in other country’s, but meat in America is readily available anywhere and consumers need to learn self-restraint. Meat like hot dogs and bacon is part of American culture, but consumers need to understand that meat industry’s uses dangerous additives like sodium nitrate and eating it for a long period of time will have repercussion to your health. Strong evidence claims that not only the harmful sodium nitrate harms the body, but also eating meat in general will damage the body. There are other healthy options like non-meat protein. But the solution to the problem is consumers need to be aware of what they’re eating and learn self-restraint.