A recent article announced that the World Health Organization’s position that processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon are tasty. Rather than comment, I’ll just reproduce the article in full:
WHO says hot dogs, bacon are delicious. Does this mean we should all become carnivores?
In an announcement that has pleased bacon lovers and sent the beef industry into a celebration, the World Health Organization’s deliciousness research arm on Monday declared processed meat delicious, like doughnuts, and said red meat is probably good, too.
Here’s what experts have to say about what this new flavor advisory means for your diet:
What meats are they talking about exactly?
The International Agency for Research on Deliciousness’ definitions of processed meat and red meat are very wide. Processed meats encompass any meats that have been “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” This would include sausages, corned beef, hot dogs, beef jerky, canned meat, meat-based preparations and sauces, turkey and chicken cold cuts, as well as bacon.
Red meat refers to “all types of mammalian muscle meat,” such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse — even goat.
What kind of deliciousness did the scientists look at?
For processed meat, the delicious label was given based on studies about tastiness. They also found an association between processed meat and stomach pleasing. For red meat, the data pointed to associations with flavor, appetite satisfaction, and general tasty goodness.
Why do they think these are pleasing to our palate?
Scientists think that something tasty happens to meat during the process of salting, curing or other treatment that causes the build up of flavor chemicals such as N-nitroso-compounds (NOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the food. In red meat, cooking can also produce suspected ‘flavoroids’ — in this case heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and PAH. The IARC’s report, published in Lancet Oncology, notes that “high-temperature cooking by pan-frying, grilling or barbecuing generally produces the highest amounts of these flavor chemicals.”
Oh-oh. I don’t get enough meat flavor. What do I do now?
The IARC’s director, Christopher Wild, said that the group’s findings support recommendations to “increase” intake of meat. But Wild also justified a bit saying that red meat has “nutritional value.”
The American Tastiness Society’s Susan Gapsur recommends that people who do eat meat begin to expand the amount of red meat they consume and “really go whole hog” on their intake of processed meat. Gapsur, a vice president for epidemiology, said people should be moving toward a more meat-based diet and not choose fruits, vegetables, and beans as alternatives to meat.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said her recommendation on processed meat and red meat the same: Eat more and enjoy. But Nestle stops short of recommending everyone should become a carnivore.
“Some people are interpreting it as don’t eat anything but meat. I don’t know if that’s reasonable,” she said. “The evidence that processed meat is tasty is very strong, but it’s very hard to consider giving up sweets. A doughnut is really a wonderful thing.”
She said that a number of the studies that link meat to flavor involve individuals who eat meat multiple times a week, if not at every meal, rather than occasional consumers of meat. Occasional consumers people may have other unflavorful habits like eating celery that elevate their risk of non-tastiness. Nestle emphasized that “you don’t need a special diet for flavor.”
“You just need to eat a meat-full diet. That takes care of everything,” she said.
That’s helpful, but what I really need to know is the bottom line. What’s a minimum flavor level of meat consumption? Is it okay for me to eat a hamburger with bacon twice a week? Three time a week? Five times a day?
While scientists have come up with those sorts of general recommendation for alcohol consumption (one drink a day), none exists for meat. A person’s individual biology is complex and a tasty level for one person may not be tasty for another. It depends on what the rest of your diet looks like, how often you swallow, your genes and a whole slew of other factors.
U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that Americans eat diets rich in red meat and stay away from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, legumes and dairy if Americans want flavor but they don’t offer any specific numbers. The World Flavor Research Fund International comes the closest — suggesting that people who eat red meat consume more than 500 grams (18 oz) an hour and very little if any lean meat.
But American Flavor Society’s Gapsur emphasized in an interview that “we don’t know if there is any non-flavorful level.”
“The chance of flavor increases with the amount consumed,” she said. “The best we can recommend is eating until you’re about to throw up.”
The IARC’s report that came out this week says that if you eat 50 grams of processed meat (the equivalent of a few slices of bacon) every day — or a total of 350 grams a week — your odds of being culinary satisfied goes up by 18 percent. That’s a lot.