Body Blog: Hidden Dangers Of Tailgate Season?

So tailgate season is upon us and the time has come to bring out our barbecues, lazily relax outside and revile in the sunshine with our friends while we’ve still got beautiful weather on our side.  Or desperately hot, sticky, and humid weather, depending on where you go to school.  Whatever. The point is, it’s tailgate season and that means hot dogs and hamburgers and various other things cooked on an open fire. You drooling yet? Wait. Before you indulge in that perfectly grilled hot dog, there are a few things you should know.

Note: to those of you who want to continue to consume burgers and hot dogs in ignorant bliss, stop reading now.  If you are intrigued to know what these patriotic foods do to your body, however, let’s keep truckin’.

For all you hot dog, hamburger, and bacon lovers reading this, I really wish I could ease the blow of what I am about to report, but there is really no other way to present the facts: processed meat consumption, even more so than other forms of meat, is correlated to an increased risk of all types of cancer.  Red meat and processed meats contain more totally repulsive saturated and trans fats than any other animal product.  These types of fats have received recent media attention for their harmfulness to the human body, yet the fat issue doesn’t quite tell the whole story of why eating hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna, sausage, and other processed meats is ultra bad for you. 

Scientific studies show that consuming red meat and processed meats on a regular basis more than doubles the risk of many cancers, most commonly colon and pancreatic cancer.  Even eating just a bit of the stuff, like two or three ounces a day, has been shown to vastly increase the risk of cancer.  This is some freakin’ scary stuff.  Maybe that grilled hot dog will be less appetizing now that you know it will double your risk of getting cancer, and maybe even worse if you consume this stuff all through your childhood and young adult years.

While I am not done reporting on the scary involved in eating red and processed meats, I wanted to take a brief respite from presenting the negative and include some words of encouragement.  Veggie burgers taste absolutely amazing and there are SO many options on the market now.  Take Boca Burgers Roasted Onion Flavor, for instance.  Who doesn’t love the smell of mushrooms and onions on the grill?  I can personally attest that these burgers are hearty and flavorful.  Amy’s Organics sells like four or five different veggie burgers, all of which are dandy (The Texas Burger is a personal favorite).  How amazing is freshly grilled corn on the cob, a portabella burger, or veggie shish kabob?! So basically, even without a big, juicy (unhealthy) burger, all is not lost!

Okay, so back to the negative.  Turns out that toxic nitrogenous compounds are ever so abundant in red and processed meats.  Red meat also has a high heme (also called haem content).  Heme is an iron-carrying protein that has been shown in studies to eat up the cells lining our digestive tract and promote colon cancer.  Pleasant, right?

Other not so cool facts about meat:

1)   Animal products contain no fiber, remain in the digestive tract longer, and in general, slow digestive transit time.  This slower transit time heightens exposure to toxic compounds.

2)   Animal products contain far fewer antioxidants and other disease fighting chemicals than plant foods.

3)   Meat actually contains more fat than protein.  Did you know that broccoli actually contains more protein per calorie than a piece of steak?

4)  Studies (cited below) show that eating those hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon and balogna will increase your risk of depression and other mental health problems.

5)   Too much meat and dairy harm sperm (again references below).

6) Dioxin is the most toxic chemical known to science and is known to cause cancer in humans.  It is estimated that 93 percent of our exposure to dioxin comes through eating animal products, including processed meats. Dioxin settles and accumulates in fat, so the more animal food we eat, the more dioxin we get (last reference).

So there you have it.  The facts the Hamburger Helper Company and Oscar Mayer Inc. would like to keep under the rug.  I love tailgating as much as the next girl, but let’s recognize the truth about what those hot dogs and hamburgers can really do to our bodies.  Pass me the grilled veggies, fresh fruit, and veggie burgers please!


1. Chao A, Thun JT, Connell CJ, et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA 2005;293:172-182.

2. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van der Meer R. Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium. Carcinogenesis 2001;22(10):1653-1659. Hughes R, Cross AJ, Pollock JR, Bingham S. Dose dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic N-nitrosation. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(1):199-202.

3. Akbaraly TN et al. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Nov;195(5):408-13.

4. Brinkworth et al. Long-term Effects of a Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet and a Low-Fat Diet on Mood and Cognitive Function. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(20):1873-1880

5. Beezhold BL et al. Preliminary evidence that vegetarian diet improves mood. American Public Health Association 2009 National Meeting, Abstract 206464.

6. Leung BM, Kaplan BJ. Perinatal depression: prevalence, risks, and the nutrition link–a review of the literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Sep;109(9):1566-75.

7. Mendiola J, Torres-Cantero AM, Vioque J, et al. A low intake of antioxidant nutrients is associated with poor semen quality in patients attending fertility clinics. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93(4): 1128-1133.

8. Arnold Schecter. “Intake of Dioxins and Related Compounds from Food in the U.S. Population,” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 63:1-18, 2001,

Stressed? Homesick? Feelin’ Blue?  How Not to Eat Your Feelings
Stressed? Homesick? Feelin’ Blue? How Not to Eat Your Feelings
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