Another one of those periodical news stories about what you should and shouldn’t eat to prevent cancer was circulated yesterday, for the BBC report see here. Amongst the recommendations was included that you shouldn’t eat any processed meats, including bacon. I have to admit that those sort of stories always scare me, particularly when it involves a favourite food group of mine, I love bacon, although don’t have it that often but I do eat pancetta, a kind of bacon, very frequently as I’ll happily put it in anything!
Cancer, like I suspect anyone, pretty much scares the **** out of me. I lost my mum to it when I was in my early 20s and although I’m thankful she was around for at least that long the thought of leaving my kids in a similar early manner terrifies me, but what terrifies me the most is the responsibility these various reports seem to place on the individual, even though this latest report did point out that it was only a ‘third’ of cancer cases related to life style but I know that if the worse came to the worse and it happened to me I’d be in that hospital bed thinking “Did I do everything I could to prevent this?” “Did I eat one to many pancetta pastas?” I’m a scientist by training and I’ve known about the link with processed meats for some time, it’s the nitrates in them and I’ve been aware of another report as well saying about nitrates possibly aggravating asthma to (which I have), but it hasn’t stopped me eating that pancetta or that salami, another not as indulged as often weakness (I tend not to buy it because I know if I do I’ll end up eating the entire packet). Being a scientist by training actually doesn’t help because I can see more of the sides to the argument, more of the pros and cons, for example if I stopped eating the processed meats that I do eat (the occasional ham sandwich, the once a fortnight pepperoni pizza, the multiple dishes of pancetta pasta) what protein would I be eating? You’re meant to eat at the most 500g of read meat a week, which I don’t get anywhere near as I only eat red meat occassionally in bolognaise or lasagne. As for chicken, well unless you can afford regular, expensive organic chicken, the chicken you’ll be eating will be laced with hormones and possibly have more fat than a big Mac (and taste completely tasteless), so what exactly are you meant to eat? Protein is a key part of the diet. Yes, I know there’s the vegetarian option but it is harder to get your protein requirements as a vegetarian and alot of thats through things like cheese which hang on a minute, doesn’t that make you fat? Which is what the report most explicitly prohibited. So in short, although I take some of these types of reports seriously (after a recent report I won’t be going back on the pill), I know full well there are advantages and disadvantages to most types of food and I know I need my protein, so pancetta at least for me is still on the menu, that doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking about the negatives when I’m eating it though.