The Ham Sandwich Government Warning That Had Reddit Shook

When you think of dangerous foods, things like pufferfish, dented cans, or unpasteurized dairy probably come to mind. Your thoughts probably don't wander to ham sandwiches. But one Redditor recently posted about the potential dangers of ham sandwiches in the r/todayilearned subreddit. 

The post is captioned "TIL in 2009 The World Cancer Research Fund warned parents against feeding their children too many ham sandwiches due to the risk of bowel cancer from the processed meat." The post references the Wikipedia page for "Ham Sandwiches," which features a 'Health' category citing an article from Courier Mail that reports The World Cancer Research Fund's recommendation on reducing the consumption of processed or cured meats.

While some commenters were a bit shocked to learn that regular lunchmeat is considered to be "processed meat" offering statements like "It's very hard to avoid processed meats," others stressed the importance of getting screened by a doctor and via colonoscopy.

Nitrates and nitrites in processed meats cause cancer.

One Redditor mentioned on the thread, "Processed meats actually are considered a group 1 carcinogenic" and attached the link to Cancer Council, which cites research from the WHO saying that processed meats like "ham, bacon, salami, and frankfurts" are group 1 carcinogen, meaning that there is significant scientific evidence that these foods lead to cancer, specifically bowel and stomach cancer.

The main culprits are added nitrates and nitrites, which are not naturally occurring like those in vegetables. The Conversation reports that sodium nitrate is what is often added to food and when that reacts with amino acids in the body during digestion, they form N-nitroso compounds, a cancer-causing molecule.

A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that participants who ate just 70 grams of processed meat per day, the equivalent of just a few slices of ham, were significantly more likely to develop colorectal cancer over time. And, according to The Guardian, the WHO declared that eating just 50 grams per day increased this risk by 18%. Perhaps it's time to think twice before eating more processed meat.