Filling our lunchtime sandwiches with innocent-looking deli meats could be causing significant detrimental effects to our health - beyond those currently understood - to such a degree that it would be prudent to reconsider our decision to include any processed meats in our diet.
It is well-documented that consuming red meat has been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer by up to 28 per cent and that a high consumption of processed meats increases your risk by 20 per cent, according to a US study featured in a journal of the Harvard Medical School. The UK government shares these concerns and last year advised the limitation of red meat consumption to 70 grams a day.
However, new research takes a more sinister turn, with a special focus on processed meats and pancreatic cancer. A study published in the British Journal of Cancer set out to investigate this link and analysed data from at least 11 trials and 6,643 patients with pancreatic cancer.
Professor Susanna Larsson from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden conducted the study and found that "eating processed meat increased the risk of pancreatic cancer. The risk increased by 19 per cent for every 50g someone added to their diet. Having an extra 100g would increase the risk by 38 per cent".
These statistics are certainly significant enough for us to completely rethink our consumption of processed meat, especially when we consider that "pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates", says Larsson.
It is worth noting that Sara Hiom, the information director of Cancer Research UK, points out that "the jury is still out as to whether red meat is a definite risk factor for pancreatic cancer and larger studies are needed to confirm this, but this new analysis suggests processed meat may be playing a role".
This research suggests that while we don't need to completely exclude red meat from our diets, we really do need to be cautious when it comes to deli-counter processed meats, since these usually contain added nitrates, MSG, corn syrup and a cocktail of artificial colours and additives - and there is a wealth of reliable research detailing the harmful effects of consuming such products.
Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, visit www.BeUtifulYou.co.uk