Processed meat is linked with multiple chronic diseases


  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Heart disease

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Bowel and stomach cancer


N-nitroso compounds are cancer-causing substances believed to be responsible for some of the adverse effects of processed meat consumption.

They are formed from sodium nitrite that is added to processed meat products.

Sodium nitrite is used as an additive for 3 reasons:

  • To preserve the red/pink color of meat.

  • To improve flavor by suppressing fat oxidation (rancidification).

  • To prevent the growth of bacteria, improving flavor and cutting the risk of food poisoning.


Meat smoking is one of the oldest preservation methods, often used in combination with salting or drying.

PAHs are a large class of substances that form when organic matter burns.

They can be formed from:

  • Burning wood or charcoal.

  • Dripping fat that burns on a hot surface.

  • Burnt or charred meat.

Numerous studies in animals have shown that some PAHs can cause cancer.


Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are a class of chemical compounds that form when meat or fish is cooked under high temperature, such as during frying or grilling

HCAs cause cancer when given to animals in high amounts. Generally speaking, these amounts are much higher than those normally found in the human diet.

Nevertheless, numerous observational studies in humans indicate that eating well-done meat may increase the risk of cancer in the colon, breast and prostate.


Processed meat products are usually high in sodium chloride, also known as table salt.

Excessive salt consumption may play a role in hypertension and heart disease, especially in those who have a condition called salt-sensitive hypertension.

In addition, several observational studies indicate that diets high in salt may increase the risk of stomach cancer.

This is supported by studies showing that a high-salt diet may increase the growth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, which are an important risk factor for stomach cancer.