Checkup: Hot Dog Health Risks
Americans eat more than 20 million hot dogs at major league ball parks every year. This past July 4, we scarfed down something like 150 million hot dogs.
Clearly, eating hot dogs is an American national pastime. But according to Susan Levin, director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, itís also a national nightmare.
"In terms of diet choices, processed meats of any kind are so closely linked to colorectal cancer that thereís no safe amount to consume."
Levin is referring to a recent study by the American Institute for Cancer Research claiming that eating just one hot dog a day increases the risk for colorectal cancer by 21 percent. Now, itís worth nothing that the American Cancer Society does not take quite such a draconian view --it says that processed meats are OK in moderation.
But Levin says that, like cigarettes, processed meats are full of things that are just plain bad for you.
"There are carcinogenic compounds in processed meats like nitrates and nitrites. Thereís also a curing process, salting and smoking, with different preservatives used. You also find in meats iron which is linked to cancer, fat which is linked to cancer. So it could be a synergistic effect within the food; it's hard to isolate one factor."
So is it okay, as the American Cancer Society suggests, to enjoy a dog every once in a while? Levin says, no.
"You could probably smoke a cigarette a day and not get lung cancer. But that would be pretty bad advice on any health care professionalís part to say, 'yeah, go ahead and smoke one cigarette a day, how bad could it be.' But we know itís linked, therefore thereís no safe amount to consume."