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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Miranda

Bologna, like other processed meats, may be classified as one of the least healthy foods in the Western diet. It has been estimated that 800,000 lives could be saved each year if bologna and other processed meats were eliminated from the diet.

Unhealthy Substances in Bologna
  • Trans fats. Bologna naturally contains up to 5% trans fats, the consumption of any levels of which has been strongly linked to an increased risk for coronary artery disease, diabetes, accelerated aging, mood disturbances and sudden death.
  • Spermine.  Bologna is also naturally rich in spermine, a compound which may promote polyp formation in the colon (a non-malignant precursor of colon cancer). It may also facilitate subcutaneous fat accumulation and is implicated in the formation of cellulite.
  • Nitrites.  Nitrites are at the same time associated with the beneficial, blood vessel-dilating properties of plants, as well as the carcinogenetic effects of processed meats. During production, bologna is treated with nitrites in order to prevent the growth of foodborne infectious bacteria. While this treatment is critical in the prevention of food poisoning, consumption of these nitrites is damaging to human health. Ingested nitrites may be converted by our gut bacteria into nitrosamines, which are powerful carcinogens. Elevated exposure to nitrosamines may explain why the consumption of bologna and other processed meats has been linked to an increased risk in the development of a wide variety of cancers, including: bladder, prostate, thyroid, endometrial, throat, esophageal, stomach, colon, rectal, pancreatic, lung, testicular, blood (leukemia) and kidney cancers. Excess exposure to nitrites/nitrosamines through consumption of processed meats has also been linked to decreases in lung function and an increased risk for development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, on par with cigarette smoke and alcohol. The current official recommendation is that processed meats should be avoided entirely.

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