Pork is one of the most popular forms of meat globally, with many Americans wanting to name bacon the national food of the U.S. Despite its popularity, it’s essential to understand the potential correlation to various health issues, going into more detail later on in the post.
There are many reasons people choose to refrain from eating pork. Here are the top reasons:
Parasites and Viruses From Pigs
Pigs are often carriers of parasites and viruses. Pigs will eat anything, such as insects, animal carcasses, and even feces. As a result of these unhealthy eating habits, pigs are known for being carriers of the following viruses and parasites:
- Paramyxoviridae. Paramyxoviridae are single-strand viruses linked to measles, mumps, and respiratory tract infections. The menangle virus, a new virus in the Paramyxoviridae family, was found to transfer to humans from infected pigs. First discovered at an Australian piggery in 1997, this virus’s symptoms include a rash with severe influenza type symptoms.
- Nipah virus. The Nipah virus is a single strand virus that is part of the Paramyxoviridae family. It can be transmitted to humans from animals, contaminated food, or person to person. In 1998, a deadly virus outbreak among pig handlers in Malaysia was the Nipah virus’s first known reported case. Autopsies on the deceased victims found extensive thrombosis (blood clots) and parenchymal necrosis (abnormal growth) in their central nervous systems. 
- Hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis E is an infection that causes inflammation in the liver. The virus is transmitted from feces or consuming raw or undercooked pork. HEV was more prevalent in China, with contact with pork and various pig products as “an important mode of HEV transmission.”
- Taenia solium tapeworm. Taenia solium is a pork tapeworm that is common in areas where pork is consumed. Humans are the primary host, while pigs are the secondary hosts. The tapeworm is transmitted to pigs via human feces then back to humans via uncooked or undercooked pork that contains tapeworm cysts. Once consumed by humans, the cysts reside in the intestines, growing into adult worms. These tapeworms could lead to cysticercosis, a disease that could cause seizures or damage to muscles and the eyes. Symptoms of taenia solium include nausea, vomiting, lethargy, headache, blurry vision, weakness, confusion, and seizures.
- Swine flu. The swine flu is a respiratory infection that is caused by the H1N1 virus. Influenza virus can be transmitted from pigs to humans, humans to pigs, and human to human. Swine flu can be transferred to humans by eating undercooked meat or not handling it properly. Symptoms of swine flu tend to occur 1-3 days after exposure. Common symptoms are sore throat, runny nose, fever, diarrhea, headache, body aches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
Pork May Be Bad For Your Heart
Eating too much pork could increase cholesterol levels. In a recent study, heavy consumption was found to increase trimethylamine N-oxide, a compound potentially linked to heart disease. 
Increased Cancer Risk
Studies indicate a possible link between pork and cancer. One potential reason for this is due to how it is prepared: cooking red meat at high temperatures (such as frying or barbeque) increases levels of heterocyclic amine, a compound believed to increase cancer risk.  A study on HCA’s found that when heating meat or fish, more than ten types of HCA’s are produced. In animal tests, these HCA’s developed cancers in the colon, breast, and prostate.  Another area of concern is processed meats. Salami, hot dogs, bacon, ham, canned meats, jerky, sausage, and sausage are processed meats that may contain chemicals such as sodium nitrite. Nitrite may damage cells and transform into cells that cause cancer.
Conditions For Farm Raised Pork
One option for those who want to eat pork is to choose farm-raised pork. The conditions of farm-raised pork tend to be healthier for the pigs and the overall environment. They are allowed to roam in the pasture and eat healthier foods, such as herbs, acorns, grass, and roots. Many are also fed food healthier scraps, such as apples and avocados. Farm-raised pigs aren’t given hormones and have access to sunshine and fresh air as well. As a result, their meat is higher in minerals and micronutrients.
On the other hand, conventionally raised pigs are forced to eat foods they aren’t designed to eat, such as corn, grain, and soybean. They are often given antibiotics, and much of their feed is laced with potentially dangerous pesticides. Two pesticides in particular, chlorpyrifos and carbaryl, have been shown to affect protein levels in the developing brains of mice, and “induce persistent adult behavior and cognitive impairments.” 
While many are skeptical about consuming pork because of the issues described above, it has many health benefits. Here are a few of the top benefits of eating pork:
Pork Is High In Protein
Pork is a good source of high-quality protein. Protein can’t be created by the body, so it must be obtained via external food sources. The primary benefits and uses of protein include the following:
- Store and transport molecules. Oxygen is transported throughout the body via the protein hemoglobin. Another protein, ferritin is often combined with iron and stored in the liver and tissues throughout the body.
- Source of energy. Protein can be used as a source of energy when carbohydrate stores are depleted.
- Hormone production. Protein plays a role in creating a few hormones. Insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar) and secretin (key in the digestive process) are two protein hormones.
- Antibodies. Antibodies are formed by proteins, which are designed to protect the body from illness infection, and disease.
- Enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that carry out various functions in the body. These functions include food digestion, supporting brain functions, detoxification of blood, providing cellular energy support, breaking down toxins, and healing processes in the body. 
- Muscle growth/body composition. A study on pork consumption found that diets high in pork protein may “have favorable effects on body composition.” The same study found no difference in BMI or any other maker between beef, pork, or chicken diets.
Pork Is Rich In Vitamins
Pork is a good source of various vitamins and nutrients including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Pork also contains B vitamins, which are also essential for good health:
Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Vitamin B1 helps improve brain function, assists in digesting food, helps the body produce red blood cells, and turns carbs into energy. The following ailments could increase the risk of a thiamine deficiency: dialysis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, alcohol dependency, high dosages of diuretics, and old age.
Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 plays a role in the production of neurotransmitters. These chemicals allow nerve cells and the brain to communicate, which is key for the smooth functioning of metabolic processes. A vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with increased homocysteine levels in the blood, which is linked to cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood vessels of the brain. There is also a correlation between elevated homocysteine levels and toxic effects on central nervous system neurons. 
Vitamin B12. One hundred grams of pork can provide 70% of the body’s recommended daily intake of vitamin B12. This B-vitamin has several important functions, which include assisting with red blood cell formation, bone health, eye health, improving mood, brain health, healthy skin, and heart health. Researchers have noted that many vegetarians are at an increased risk of a B12 deficiency.  Other studies indicate a higher deficiency of B12 in hypothyroid patients.
Pork is one of the most popular meats in the world, but it’s not without controversy. Some religions forbid consumption, while others choose to refrain from eating it because they believe it is unhealthy. Pork has been linked to several ailments, such as viruses, parasites, cancer, and heart disease. Many of the health issues associated with pork can be attributed to how it is prepared. For example, cooking pork over high heat can increase levels of heterocyclic amine, a compound believed to increase cancer risk. However, pork has many health benefits and is a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, B vitamins, and iron. If consumed moderately and sourced from clean farms, it can be an acceptable diet choice.
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