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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Smoking still more dangerous than eating bacon

    Twitter exploded last week as vegetarians everywhere rejoiced at the World Health Organization’s announcement that processed meats joined tobacco smoking and asbestos in their list of possible carcinogens.

    Headlines like “Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Meats Cause Cancer” and hashtags like #smugvegetarian were all over social media as the news spread like wildfire.

    People across the world threw out their bacon strips, tossed their sausage links and stocked their fridges with healthy options like broccoli, strawberries and apples.

    But wait — according to that same list of carcinogens, broccoli, strawberries and apples could all give you cancer; they contain acetaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

    Let’s take a step back. If we are to believe the headlines written in response to the announcement, we should never even look at a bacon strip; heaven forbid we eat one and doom ourselves to the fate of a cancerous colon.

    This is obviously untrue. Plenty of humans have enjoyed bacon in their lifetimes without getting colorectal cancer.

    But if we are to believe the claims made in response to the WHO announcement, shouldn’t we be able to eat a two-pound slab of bacon every week and not worry about the long-term effects on our bodies? After all, such scientific findings are meaningless if everything from aloe vera to tobacco to oranges is listed as a potential carcinogen.

    The underlying problem here is that the media and users of social media sensationalize every scientific finding they get their hands on. A headline that should read “WHO Recommends Limiting Consumption Of Processed Meat To Decrease Risk Of Cancer” becomes “WHO Announces That If You Eat Bacon You Will Get Colorectal Cancer And You Will Die.”

    A tweet that should read “Wow, turns out eating processed meats can increase your risk of cancer. Thought I’d let my non-vegetarian friends know!” becomes “HAVE FUN WITH YOUR CANCER YOU MEAT-EATING HEATHENS #smugvegetarian.”

    Scientific findings such as those announced by the WHO last week are meant to improve people’s health. They provide the data and information necessary to make decisions about how to live a healthy, productive life.

    But when we allow divisive Internet content to skew the truth behind the science, no one knows what to do. Following sensationalized headlines means taking drastic action and changing your lifestyle in a way the original study would have never intended. Following the non-believers and ignoring science means the possibility of setting aside sound science that could help you live healthier and longer.

    What we need is a better understanding of scientific findings from both the media and users of social media. Before claiming that some official organization has declared that some common item is a cause of every problem in your life, check your sources.

    Read the original study, not the sensationalized version that appeared on your news feed. Learn about how your life might be affected and decide if it’s time to make a change. And for heaven’s sake — eat some bacon.

    It probably won’t kill you.

    Follow Graham Place on Twitter

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