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Health dangers of classic French fare laid bare

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Photo: AFP/Chris Brown Flickr
13:18 CET+01:00
The dangers of eating traditional Gallic delicacies like saucisson, jambon and even cheese were spelled out in two separate reports on Monday. They may prompt the French to seriously consider changing their diets (although they probably won't).

Saucisson, red meat, jambon and fromage are the pillars of French cuisine and let's face it one of the delights of living in France, unless you're a vegan.

In fact tucking into a “planche mixte” – a board of various processed meats and cheeses (fromage and charcuterie) – with friends over a bottle of red is a highlight of the Paris dining scene.

That's not to mention raclette (basically charcuterie and melted cheese) in winter.

Then there are  all the Gallic dishes that rely on red meat – boeuf bourgignon, steak tartare, entrecôte, le burger.... the list goes on and on.

But these much-loved dishes and traditional cheese and meat boards could soon find their popularity tumbling thanks in the main to a report from the World Health Organisation on Monday.

The health body has concluded that sausages, bacon, ham and processed meat, and probably red meat” should be ranked in the same category as smoking and drinking alcohol, when it comes to the risks of causing cancer.

While the consumption of sausages, ham and other processed meats has long been suspected of causing colon cancer, the fact that the World Health Organization has agreed, may finally make meat lovers in France stand up and notice. 

The findings support "recommendations to limit intake of meat," said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which compiled a review of more than 800 studies on the link between a meat diet and cancer.

"In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance," IARC official Kurt Straif said in a statement.

For an individual, the risk of getting cancer from eating processed meat was statistically "small", said the agency, but "increases with the amount of meat consumed".

"Each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent."

The report was compiled by 22 experts from 10 countries.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The evaluation revealed "strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect" for red meat consumption -- mainly for cancer of the colon and rectum, but also the pancreas and prostate, said the agency based in Lyon, France.

Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.

The agency added processed meat to the same category of cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke and asbestos, but stressed this did not mean it was just as dangerous.

If that report prompts you to drop the charcuterie and order a “planche fromage” then another report that came out over the weekend might make you want to ditch the cheese too, or at least make you realize why you can't live without it.

According to an American study some cheeses are as addictive as drugs and alcohol.

Scientists studied the behaviour of around 500 students before concluding that the dependency created by the cheese was similar to that created by smoking, drugs and alcohol.

Because of that, the most addictive food in the world was found to be pizza – thanks in the main to the large amount of cheese it contains.

Although fondue can't be far behind.

Apparently it is the presence of a certain protein in dairy products that activate the receptors in the body and create a dependency.

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However it's clearly very import to stress, for those who love their Roqueforts and Camemberts that the health impact of eating cheese is far less dangerous than smoking or drinking alcohol.

In fact The Local covered the story recently of a 110-year-old Frenchman who credited his long life to cheese.

Unless of course you eat a whole Brie de Melun in one sitting.

So will these reports change the way you eat in France?

SEE ALSO: Pooh la la - Women sex up traditional French cheeses

 

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