by Lisa Garber
December 11th, 2012
Updated 12/11/2012 at 3:22 am
Are you a smoker? How about a hot dog eater? According to a national medical group, hot dogs are just as detrimental as cigarettes to your health. The D.C. -based alternative health group called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ran a $2,750 billboard that read “Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health.” But it’s true; healthy hot dogs may not exist, along with healthy processed meat.
That $2,750 message was aiming to warn people about the health risks of eating processed meats. This includes but is not limited to hot dogs, deli meats, ham, sausage, bacon, and pepperoni—all foods found in excess in everyday American fare, and something like a requirement at any Speedway event.
“A hot dog a day could send you to an early grave,” says dietitian Susan Levin, nutrition education director for the committee. The causes of death include colorectal and pancreatic cancer thanks to the chemical additives and genetically modified ingredients—not, as commonly believed, the meat itself.
Let’s take a brief look at the Oscar Meyer hot dog, the ingredients of which include (not limited to) mechanically separated various meats, corn syrup, and sodium nitrite. Mechanically separated meat is a paste that includes the spinal cords of animals—which is where, incidentally, BSE or Mad Cow Disease tends to lurk. Meanwhile, corn syrup in conventional foods is almost always genetically modified and is a prime suspect in the American obesity epidemic, and sodium nitrite has been associated with a 67 percent raised risk of pancreatic cancer.
Many physicians, however, don’t believe the evidence (or are paid by corporations to dull their bite on the topic).
“It is not necessary to eliminate consumption of red or processed meat,” says the American Cancer Society. “Rather the message is that these foods should not be the mainstay of your diet.”
Meanwhile, others like Dr. Jesse Spear of St. Vincent Medical Group simply don’t have faith in their patients to stop eating processed meats. “I don’t personally tell people never to eat hot dogs, because I guess I’m just realistic enough to know that people will still consume them to some degree,” he says.
As with cigarettes, it’s not the meat itself but the chemical additives—like nitrates—in processed meat that make them so harmful. (That is, unless, the animals are fed genetically modified corn in horrid conditions typical of factory farms, in which case the meat itself becomes toxic.) Pasture-raised meats are not as toxic as the mainstream media often suggests.
In short, the quality of what we put into our bodies matters more than we may think. A baseball stadium hot dog may taste good going down, but it’s nothing short of hastening a visit to the grave.