Pork: Current Scientific Evidence Might Surprise You

Do you love to eat pork? or have you ever eat bacon, ham, pepperoni, or its derivative? Then, we will show you the latest information about those foods, which might surprise you.

Pork is the most consumed meat worldwide. It is about 40.4% of meat consumption shares back in 2017, followed by consumption of chicken in around 32.4%, which shown in Figure 1. (National Pork Board. 2018).

World Meat Poultry Consumption Shares 2017
Figure 1.World Meat Poultry Consumption Shares 2017

The data shows that Pork consumption worldwide in increasing each year, and still the most consumed meat worldwide each year. Even other meat is also increasing, the pork always stays in the most consumed meat, which could be seen in Figure 2.

Global meat production by livestock type
Figure 2.Global meat production by livestock type

Each country across the world have different consumption trends. But in China, Pork consumption is accounted for around 60% per capita. Other than that, Figure 3 shown pork production worldwide, that China, Russia, Europe, and America constitute the largest pork producer.

pork production tonnes worldwide
Figure 3. Pigmeat production tonnes worldwide [3]

However, even pork is the most consumed, almost all great doctors will tell you not to eat pork. Even some of them already write it on their blog or website. So, If you never ate pork at all, then it’s great, and keep it that way.

Here, in this article, we will explain all of the facts about pork and its derivatives. Even more, we will write more than one reference for every section of evidence, and will try to get the latest scientific research for each of them.

1. Filthy habits of the pig

The habits of the pig are different from the other four-legged animal. They’re rather dirty animals, that considered as living garbage which could eliminate all the waste on any farm. The pig could eat anything they can find, including their own urine and feces, as well as the dead body of another pig or animals, even dirt (Axe, 2016; Qamar and Raza, 2012 ).

Moreover, pigs are a lazy animal, not resistant to sunlight, and not agile. However, they are the greediest to eat compared to other tame animals.

2. Problematic body system and toxins

In general, animals and humans extract the toxins and other components in the food that dangerous to the body system and remove it from through the urine and excretion. A cow could take about a single day long to digest its food to be purified of toxins. In the other hand, a pig just digests all of their food in just around four hours (6 times faster than cow). Therefore, this fastest digest system will not remove excess toxins from the food, and many of the toxins are still remains inside the body of the pig. (Axe, 2016)

Furthermore, that pig is not resistant to sunlight, in other word, pigs dislike the hot climates. This due to their lack of sweat glands system, which makes them hard to sweat, even though many people claim that they can (Kruszelnicki, 2008). This makes more toxins stay in the pig’s body.

While it’s well known that pork contains toxins, these toxins can’t just be destroyed by cooking (Westphal and Westphal, 2015). Therefore, when a human consumes pork, all of these toxins are transferred to the human.

The research about toxins element shows that pork has a heavy metal concentration such as As, Cd, Hg. Therefore, the long term exposure to this metal toxicity (even low-level) could cause kidney damage characterized by tubular dysfunction. (Milićević, et al, 2009). Other than that, the other toxins are residues of veterinary drugs, dioxin, and additives. Moreover, sometimes during meat processing could add more toxic substances. (Hanh, et al, 2015)

3. Parasites carrier

One of the most important reasons is a large number of parasites in pigs. There are some diagnostic notes about a large number and types of parasites in pig/swine in all ages, which could have an impact on performance, with effects ranging from to clinical disease, debilitation, and perhaps even death (Corwin, 1997).

The main parasites that could be transmitted by pork such as the helminths Trichinella spp. and Taenia spp., and the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis spp. Those parasites are responsible for most of the illness for eating pork. (Djurković-Djaković, et al, 2013)

Pork Excuses

People are making excuses that these parasites could be killed by cooking pork in about 170-180 °F. Unfortunately, this research was done in a laboratory setting. While in the real case, the cooking is done in a typical kitchen, without sterilization when preparing the pork, so the removal of contamination cannot be guaranteed. (Westphal and Westphal, 2015)

Some research found that even the infection of the parasites from pork is relatively low, the risk still constitutes a hazard for humans. The unpublished data have shown that based on recent national research, there is estimation about 120,000 to 300,000 persons have infected trichiniasis per year in the United States. (Zimmermann and Zinter, 1971)

Some method is trying to remove Trichinella and Taenia from the swine, but those removal practices may cause infection in those animals, or the worst case, may cause injuries. (Kniel, 2013)

4. Fat

Pork is one of the foods with high saturated fat, which is as low as 9 grams to as high as 35 grams per 3 oz (85g) depends on the recipe, cooking, and serving methods (USDA, 2018).

5. Diseases

Consuming pork could pose many risks of diseases. Most of them are caused by parasites infection and/or the toxins in the pork.

New potential virus hazard

The latest research identified a new pig virus which could raise concerns about its potential to threaten the health of other animal and even human. It called Porcine deltacoronavirus which in 2012 was first found in pig in China. Hereafter, it detected in the U.S. in 2014 while there is a diarrhea outbreak in Ohio pigs. Currently, it’s been detected in other countries as well (2018). This disease could cause acute diarrhea, vomiting, and could be fatal. This new virus could potentially infect different species, including human. However, currently, no human cases have been documented, yet it is still investigated in some research. (Crane, 2018)

Trichinella infection

Trichinella is the one of the species that is most adapted to domestic and wild pig. Figure 4 shows the distribution areas of Trichinella papuae (Tpa) T. pseudospiralis from north America (TpsN T. pseudospiralis from Europe and Asia (TpsP) T. pseudospiralis from Tasmania (TpsA) Trichinella spiralis (Tsp) and T. zimbabwensis (Tzi) (Gottstein, Pozio, and Nöckler, 2009).

World map showing the distribution areas of Trichinella
Figure 4. World map showing the distribution areas of Trichinella

The main cause of Trichinella infection is consuming raw or undercooked pork (Gottstein, Pozio, and Nöckler, 2009). Therefore, could be seen the relationship between consuming pork and distribution areas of Trichinella, see Figure 3 and Figure 4.

However, the sad thing happens to the Muslim population (which is forbidden to consume pork) in Turkey in 2004. The large outbreak of trichinellosis happened, due to illegally mix beef with pork of unknown origin, by a wholesale butcher, who had sold to the restaurant or small vendors at a cheaper price than normal beef price. (Akkoc, Et al, 2009).

Risk of cysticercosis

The common risk of consuming pork comes from the infection of Taenia which could lead to cysticercosis. Porcine cysticercosis is highly endemic in Asia (especially China), Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Moreover, neurocysticercosis is the most hazard form of cysticercosis. This due to the cysts present in the central nervous system, which is the main cause of epilepsy or abnormal brain activity. The symptoms of epilepsy could cause an unusual sensation, unusual behavior (seizure), or even could make a loss of awareness. (Onyett, 2014)

Countries and areas at risk of cysticercosis from consuming pork
Figure 5. Worldwide area risk of cysticercosis

The most simple way to see the relationship between eating pork and it’s cysticercosis endemic is to compare Figure 3 and Figure 5. From both figures, it is clearly shown that China and America have the highest risk. However, Africa endemic is due to low sanitation or hygiene, aside from consuming pork.

Minor effects of consuming pork

The result of research found another minor effect while eating pork in a long period, which has a negative impact on perceived body odor (Havlicek and Lenochova, 2006). Other than that, often consuming bacon could elevate the risk of getting bladder cancer (Michaud, et al, 2006).

6. Religion point of view

The prohibition to consume pig already declared long ago, which is already written on some religious scriptures. Therefore, for those who believe, simply follow whatever written in their religious scripture.

Al-Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims clearly mention it:

Al Qur'an Surah Al-Baqarah [2:173]

He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Al Qur’an Surah Al-Baqarah [2:173]

The Bible also clearly mention it:

And the pig/swine, though it has a split hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

Leviticus 11:7-8

Christian religious denominations that forbid pork consumption include Ethiopian Orthodox, Hebrew Roots, Messianic Jews, Rastafarian, Seventh-Day Adventists, and United Church of God, which are based on Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14, Isaiah 65 and Isaiah 66 (Axe, 2016)

7. Pork Dilemma

Whether you think you only eat “higher quality” of pork product, then think again, carefully. Since consuming undercooked pork poses a higher risk to get Trichinella infection which leads to trichinosis. Even the pork is perfectly cooked, it still poses some other toxin risks because the meat is already contaminated with hormones and/or pesticides, which could be worst if cooked in high temperatures. However, overcooking pork will increase the number of carcinogenic substances, such as heterocyclic amines, which could lead to the risk of several types of cancer. (Mercola, 2008).

Somewhere, there are misleading claims about “Hormone Free” or “Antibiotic Free” when talking about pork. It might be true, and the extra hormones are not allowed in some country. However, it’s about the pig itself, the farm condition and the uses of a common drug is the main problem (Axe, 2016).

Conclusion

Whether you want to eat pork is up to you, it’s like options to smoking or drinking alcohol, there is no reason for me to force you. However, the articles already discussed here is just a little when it comes to pork which affects your health. There is a clear relationship between consuming/producing pork and it’s endemic to human. Even more, there is no safe temperature to cook the pork to remove all parasites and toxins.

We know many website or journal explain the benefit of eating high quality processed pork. Nevertheless, the risk of consuming pork is much higher and hazardous than its benefit. Also, you could get its benefit by consuming other meat, such as chicken, beef, or even seafood (which is more healthy).

If you’re reading until this line, then I think you’re a smart people who like to read. So, you could do your own research, and consider what the already written in many religious scriptures about the prohibition to consume pork.

References

Akkoc, N.; Kuruuzum, Z.; Akar, S.; Yuce, A.; Onen, F.; Yapar, N.; Ozgenc, O.; Turk, M.; Ozdemir, D.; Avci, M.; Guruz, Y.; Oral, A. M.; and Pozio, E. 2009. A Large‐Scale Outbreak of Trichinellosis Caused by Trichinella britovi in Turkey. Zoonoses Public Health, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp. 65-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1863-2378.2008.01158.x

Axe, Josh. 2016. Why You Should Avoid Pork. Online, draxe.com. Accessed March 20, 2019.

Corwin, Robert M. 1997. Pig parasite diagnosis. Swine Health and Production Vol 5, Number 2, pp67-70. Diagnostic Notes. aasv.org

Crane, Misti. 2018. New pig virus found to be a potential threat to humans. Medical Xpress: Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes. Online. Medical Xpress. Accessed March 22, 2019.

Djurković-Djaković, O.; Bobić, B.; Nikolić, A.; Klun, I.; Dupouy-Camet, J. 2013. Pork as a source of human parasitic infection. Clinical Microbiology and Infection Volume 19, Issue 7, pp. 586–594. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-0691.12162.

Gottstein, Bruno; Pozio, Edoardo; and Nöckler, Karsten. 2009. Epidemiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Control of Trichinellosis. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 22 (1), pp.127-145. https://doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00026-08

Hanh, Tran Thi Tuyet; Duc, Nguyen Thi Minh; Duc, Phuc Pham; Tuat, Chu Van; and Nguyen-Viet, Hung. 2015. Chemical hazards in pork and health risk: A review. Vietnam Journal of Public Health 35: 7–16.https://hdl.handle.net/10568/65157

Havlicek, Jan; and Lenochova, Pavlina. 2006. The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness. Chemical Senses, Volume 31, Issue 8, pp 747–752. https://doi.org/10.1093/chemse/bjl017

Kniel, K. 2013. Progress in intervention programs to eradicate foodborne helminth infections. Advances in microbial food safety, Chapter 19. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition, pp. 385-397. https://doi.org/10.1533/9780857098740.4.385

Kruszelnicki, Karl. 2008. Sweat like a pig?. Great Moments In Science. Online. ABC Science. Accessed March 22, 2019.

Mercola, Joseph. 2008. Are There Deadly Superbugs in Your Pork?. Online. mercola.com. Accessed March 22, 2019.

Michaud, Dominique S.; Holick, Crystal N.; Giovannucci, Edward.; and Stampfer, Meir J. 2006. Meat intake and bladder cancer risk in 2 prospective cohort studies., The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 84, Issue 5, pp. 1177–1183. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/84.5.1177

Milićević, D. R.; Jovanović, M.; Jurić, V. B.; Petrović, Z. I.; and Stefanović, S. M. 2009. Toxicological assessment of toxic element residues in swine kidney and its role in public health risk assessment. International journal of environmental research and public health, 6(12). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph6123127

National Pork Board. 2018. Pork Quick Facts – World Per Capita Pork Consumption. Online, pork.org. Accessed March 18, 2019.

Onyett, Heather. 2014. Cysticercosis and Taeniasis. Canadian Paediatric Society. Online. kidsnewtocanada.ca. Accessed March 22, 2019

Qamar, Muhammad Fiaz; and Raza, Ifrah. 2012. Scientific evidences that pig meat (pork) is prohibited for human health. Scientific Papers, Animal Science, Series D, vol. LV.

USDA. 2018. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, April 2018. Online. usda.gov. Accessed March 22, 2019

Westphal, Deborah M.; and Westphal, Glenn H. 2015. What Elite Athletes Eat: The Real Wellness. CeeJayEnterprizes.

Zimmermann, W. J.; and Zinter, D. E. 1971. The Prevalance of Trichiniasis in Swine in the United States, 1960-70. HSMHA Health Reports, Vol. 86, No. 10, pp. 937-945. https://doi.org/10.2307/4594337

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