Bacon is back on the menu! Japanese knotweed extract could slash the cancer risk of processed meats, study claims 

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  • Researchers added a Japanese knotweed extract called resveratrol to red meat
  • It reduced the buildup of compounds linked to cancer in the body
  • Japanese knotweed is an invasive species and affects British home gardens.

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The Japanese knotweed, a plant considered an invasive species in Britain, has been used by scientists to make a healthier form of red meat.

The fast-growing plant because of its potential to invade gardens and buildings by homeowners contains a chemical called resveratrol, which can replace nitrite preservatives currently used in meats such as bacon, sausage, and ham.


Nitrites in processed meats result in the production of carcinogenic chemical compounds called nitrosamines, and have previously been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Researchers found that red meat supplemented with knotweed extract reduced the buildup of compounds in the body that are linked to cancer.

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The nitrites in processed meat result in the production of carcinogenic nitrosamines – and therefore an increased risk of cancer for those who regularly consume conventional bacon and ham.

japanese knot

Japanese knotweed is a species of plant with bamboo-like stems and small white flowers. Native to Japan, the plant is considered an invasive species.

The plant, scientific name Fallopia japonica, was brought to Britain by the Victorians as an ornamental garden plant and to line railway tracks to stabilize the soil.

It has no natural enemies in the UK, while in Asia it is controlled by fungi and insects.

In the US it has been determined as an invasive weed in 12 states, and can be found in another 29.

It is incredibly durable and fast-growing, and can seriously damage buildings and construction sites if left unchecked. The infamous plant strangles other plants and can kill entire gardens.

Capable of growing eight inches a day, it deprives other plants of their key nutrients and water.


The research is taking place as part of the Phytom (Phytochemicals to reduce nitrites in meat products) project, which has received support from the European Union.

“Ongoing concerns about highly processed red meat have often focused on the role of nitrites and its relationship with cancer,” said study author Günter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading.

The Phytom project solved the problem by creating processed red meat products that replaced the additives with plant-based alternatives.

‘Our latest findings suggest that using natural additives in processed red meat reduces the build-up of compounds in the body that are linked to cancer.’

For their study, the researchers tested a mixture of plants and fruits including rosemary, green tea, and resveratrol, an extract derived from Japanese knotweed.

These natural extracts were added to mince meat or curing brine to develop phytome versions of cooked and dried cured red meats.

While resveratrol is found in a range of foods, such as red wine, fruits and nuts, the researchers chose Japanese knotweed as a source because it did not change the texture and taste of the meat product, nor did it There is no risk as a potential allergen.

In total, 63 healthy subjects consumed 300 grams of meat per day for two weeks in the following order – conventional processed red meat, white meat, and Phytome processed red meat products (with additional natural extracts).

Japanese knotweed (pictured) is considered an invasive species in the UK and damages people's gardens

Japanese knotweed (pictured) is considered an invasive species in the UK and damages people’s gardens

red meat and cancer

Red meat — such as beef, lamb and pork — is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and can form part of a balanced diet.

But eating too much red and processed meat increases your risk of bowel (colorectal) cancer.

It is therefore recommended that people who eat more than 90 grams (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day cut back to 70 grams or less.

This can help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

Other healthy lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and not smoking, can also reduce your risk.

Source: NHS


At the end of each dietary period, the researchers looked for telltale signs of nitrites in the participants’ saliva, feces and urine.

The researchers found that the nitrites in the participants’ body samples were significantly lower than the plant extracts added to both cooked and dried red meats.

The nitrite levels of particular meat eaters were similar to those fed minimally processed white meat.

Surprisingly, while red meat still contains nitrites, the natural additives also have some protective effect.

Professor Kuhnley said, “This suggests that natural additives can be used to reduce the potentially harmful effects of nitrites, even in foods where removing nitrite preservatives altogether. Impossible.”

Despite the findings, Dr Duane Mailer, a registered dietitian at Aston Medical School, Aston University, who was not involved in the study, cautioned that sausage and bacon are ‘not quite health foods yet’.

“While this may help address one of the health challenges associated with consuming bacon and sausage, their salt and fat intake needs to be considered as these may not be health-desirable, so perhaps sausage And bacon isn’t quite a health food yet,” he said. .

‘It is good that traditional products such as herbs are being rediscovered as ways to preserve meat and that these methods may be healthier than the brining type of methods for making sausage and bacon.’

Dr. Melor also pointed out that resveratrol is found in grapes and red wine as well as in Japanese knotweed.

Many of us love a good bacon sandwich, but experts warn that consuming just a couple servings of bacon or a hotdog daily -- again, about 50 grams -- can increase the risk of bowel cancer by about a fifth.

Many of us love a good bacon sandwich, but experts warn that consuming just a couple servings of bacon or a hotdog daily — again, about 50 grams — can increase the risk of bowel cancer by about a fifth.

‘So, it’s probably less important…


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