Health Ministry: Comparison of processed meats’ dangers to smoking was exaggerated

While processed meats were put by the WHO in the same category as smoking, the ministry said "it is not at all as dangerous at the same level as tobacco."

October 27, 2015 16:47
1 minute read.
Cigarettes and a hotdog

Cigarettes and a hotdog. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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The Health Ministry has issued a statement disagreeing with the World Health Organization that claimed eating processed meat was “as dangerous as smoking.”

While processed meats were put by the WHO in the same category as smoking, the ministry said, “it is not at all as dangerous at the same level as tobacco. As a single factor, smoking contributes significantly to the risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer [and cardiovascular diseases]. Compared to that, processed meat is a much more modest risk factor.”

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The ministry reissued on Tuesday its guidelines stating that smoking was “much more dangerous” than eating such meat – hot dogs, pastrami, bacon and other meat with chemicals or meat that has undergone smoking. While very undesirable, such a diet promotes the risk for colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, stomach and breast cancer, the ministry said.

Grilling meat at very high temperatures, especially over charcoal but also by other means, can also be carcinogenic, the ministry said.

One should eat no more than one or two meals per month with processed meats. Instead, eat chicken, fish and legumes as an alternative to such meat.

If you do eat unprocessed red meat, prefer parts that are low fat and eat less than you would want to.

For every 50 grams of processed meat eaten daily, the risk for colorectal cancer rises by 18 percent compared to those who won’t eat it, the ministry said, quoting international cancer experts. But the risk of lung and other cancers from exposure to tobacco smoke - firsthand or secondhand – is 10 times as high as from eating processed meats, the ministry said.

It added that the news released on Monday by the UN organization is “not new. The news is that the WHO decided that there was enough information to classify eating processed meats as a sure carcinogen.”

The Israel Cancer Association has warned many times in recent years about the risk of cancer from processed meat and grilling any meat at high temperatures.

But it has recognized tobacco as the greatest single preventable danger to health in the world.

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