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COULD HAPPEN

Swedish scientists are trying to develop a sausage that would actually prevent cancer

Reuters/Michaela Rehle
Not a health food yet.
By Deena Shanker
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Finally some good news for sausage lovers.

Following the World Health Organization’s announcement that high consumption of processed meats can cause colorectal cancer, scientists in Sweden are developing a processing method they hope can actually prevent colon cancer.

With more than 5,000 new colon cancer patients annually, it is one of the most common cancers in Sweden. The project is funded by the European Union and includes scientists from Lund University in Sweden, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and four other European research organizations.

In its warning issued in October, the WHO had laid much of the cancer-causing blame with the actual processing of meat into products like sausage and bacon, not just the meat itself, finding that it “can result in the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.” The Swedish scientists think that by extracting antioxidants from plants and berries and then adding them to the meat, the meat will become not just safer, but preventative thanks to the health effects of antioxidants.

The idea is to imbue the meat with some of the virtues of fruits and vegetables. “If this hypothesis proves to be true, it will indicate that the risk of colon cancer can be reduced by eating a balanced diet – in other words, together with meat, eat lots of vegetables and other things that contain antioxidants,” says Eva Tornberg, a professor of food technology at Lund University.

It’s still early in the project, however. Once the process is refined, the researchers will then have to conduct animal testing to see if it yields the intended results. And to be sure, extra antioxidants aren’t always a good thing—several studies have found that a large surplus of antioxidants can actually worsen existing cancers, such as malignant melanoma, a serious skin cancer.

In the meantime, sausage and bacon lovers would be advised to simply keep their consumption of red meat and pork to moderate levels and eat some vegetables with their protein.

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