“Can a hot dog really kill you?”
“Is it true that having more than one hot dog a year is considered unsafe?”
“How many hot dogs can I eat without feeling guilty?”
The nine days are over and many have already run to turn on their grill. In fact, some camps even celebrate with a “chatzos” BBQ. Therefore, I thought it was apropos to discuss a topic—hot dogs—about which I am often questioned.
A study published in the Spring of 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine analyzed the diets of over 120,000 men and women. The researchers found that individuals with the highest reported consumption of red meat were more likely to die of cancer and heart disease than the individuals who reported consuming the least amount of daily servings of red meat, pork and lamb. The researchers found that individuals consuming a three ounce serving of unprocessed red meat a day are 18 percent more likely to die of heart disease and 10 percent more likely to die of cancer than individuals who do not eat red meat everyday. The statistics change dramatically with processed meats. Consuming one hot dog daily increases the risk of dying from heart disease by 21 percent and dying from cancer by 16 percent. An important fact to keep in mind is that individuals consuming one hot dog or portion of red meat a day are overall more likely to smoke, drink, be overweight and exercise less than individuals who consume less red meat.
This is not the first study advising individuals to limit or eliminate their consumption of red meat. In July 2009 the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that consuming one hot dog daily for a year increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 20 percent. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 found that individuals who eat one hot dog a day had a 51 percent increased risk of type II diabetes. The researchers also found that replacing a daily serving of meat with a serving of low fat dairy, nuts or whole grains reduce the risk of type II diabetes significantly. And it is interesting to note that a review study published in Epidemiology and Prevention in 2010 found that consumption of processed meats (which includes deli meats, hot dogs, bacon, salami and sausages)—not red meat—was associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes.
Hot dogs, like all red meat, are high in saturated fat and cholesterol—two types of fat thought to contribute to cancer and heart disease. Hot dogs are also high in nitrites, which have been linked to bladder, pancreatic and kidney cancers. However, it should be noted that the studies mentioned above are observational studies and cannot establish cause and effect.
So, instead of the second or third burger or frank, you might want to try the salads, corn, grilled zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant or even grilled chicken.
By Shoshana Genack MS, RD (permission is given for content to be reproduced)