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Frank Talk: Are Hot Dogs a Health Risk?

Frank Talk: Are Hot Dogs a Health Risk?

A controversial billboard in Indianapolis has a picture of grilled frankfurters in a cigarette pack with a skull and crossbones on the front. The message: “Hot dogs can wreck your health.”

It’s a powerful message, equating a favorite summertime meal with the dangers of smoking, but the Cancer Project, part of the group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), says that people need to understand that processed meats can lead to cancer, just as tobacco does. They chose the location because it is near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where hungry NASCAR fans gobble down more than one million hot dogs a year.

“A hot dog a day could send you to an early grave,” says PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Processed meats like hot dogs can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease and various types of cancer. Like cigarettes, hot dogs should come with a warning label that helps racing fans and other consumers understand the health risk.”

PCRM is a nonprofit group that promotes preventive health with an emphasis on vegetarian diets and ethical research methods. The American Meat Institute takes issue with the dramatic billboard, defending hot dogs as food that can have a wide range of nutritional content and noting that they can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation.

PCRM points to a number of studies that show a connection between processed meat and cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund reported that people who ate 3.5 ounces of processed meat a day had a 36 percent greater risk of colon cancer. Other studies have shown a link between processed meat and heart disease or diabetes.

Maintaining a healthy diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, is widely recognized as a contributor to good health, including lowering colon cancer risk. Getting regular screenings, especially colonoscopies, can help detect and remove precancerous colon polyps before they pose a threat to your health. Find a screening center near you.

posted on February 13, 2014 in news