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Are Hot Dogs as Bad for You as Cigarettes?

Robyn Openshaw - Aug 04, 2011 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Thanks to alert reader Lowana, for sending me this article about hot dogs. I think the very first nutrition study I read in my 20’s was about childhood cancer. The study found only one commonality in the children who had developed cancer, versus the control group: they consumed 11+ hot dogs per month. (Yes, I realize how weird it is that I have remembered that precise statistic for 20 years).

The Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (doctors advocating for a plant-based diet) put a billboard up along the Indianapolis Motor Speedway warning people that hot dogs can wreck your health like cigarettes do. Time Magazine in May cited an American Institute for Cancer Research study that people who eat 3.5 oz. of processed meat daily have a 36% greater risk of colon cancer.

I had a college roommate, my junior year, named Cindy. She told me that as an only child raised by innkeepers in a ski-resort town, she ate nothing but Twinkies and white bread & baloney sandwiches her entire childhood. By the time she was 20 years old and living with me, she had colitis that prevented any kind of a social life.

The other three of us living in that apartment were engaged and paying little attention, but poor Cindy spent well over 12 hours a day in the bathroom. She was terrified to go on a date, because she’d have to flee for the bathroom several times. She had terrible acne, and she tried valiantly to manage her disease by getting colonics on a regular basis and eating only a handful of foods she kept in a closet. (None of them were very nutritious foods, as I recall.)

I just learned that in May, right when that Time Magazine article came out, Cindy died of colon cancer after a ravaging bout of chemotherapy. What a tragedy. I’m not amazed that people die when they eat processed meat for 20 years—I’m amazed when they live.

Nitrites and nitrates are the most carcinogenic food additives approved by the FDA. They are in all processed meats, including hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and baloney. I hope if you avoid just two things, it’s processed meat, and soda!

Posted in: Detox, Health Concerns, Whole Food

13 thoughts on “Are Hot Dogs as Bad for You as Cigarettes?”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I have 2 young ones and its so nice to have so much information about stuff like this! Thank you!

    Robyn – Have you ever eaten here? Or do you know of somewhere else that’s good? I want to take my sisters out for a new experience!

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Still Learning: haha, after my District tennis match tonight, my doubles partner I just won a tournament with this week, and I, are planning to grab some takeout from Omar’s and head up the canyon to camp, before our next match in the morning. (She was a total junk-a-holic until early this year, and now she eats mostly raw. We go to Omar’s sometimes.) It’s great food! And, I wish we had more raw restaurants in Utah, but the only other one I know of is Ginger’s in Springville.

  2. Anonymous says:


    Why is it the healthier I eat the worse I feel? MANY times throughout the years I’ve followed a mostly raw diet or at least whole foods cutting out all junk foods and processed foods. I always start losing weight and feel good for a few days but then crash hard. I get so lethargic and depressed I can’t function and always give up after a few to several weeks and go back to eating junk which I know is killing me but at least I can work and do the other necessary things in life. I know my current diet will take years off my life but I can’t seem to stop, I feel like a drug addict. (Never done drugs by the way).

    Coincidentally, I’m on my fourth week of trying, again, to eat healthy. Lots of green smoothies, lots of salads and fruit and some whole grains. Totally off milk products, wheat, and all sweets including fruit juice and even honey (which kills me being a beekeeper). I even bought the ionizer 9100 and drink most of my water from it. I haven’t been to work in a week, it’s all I can do to get out of bed. Thanx for all you do, you’re doing a great service to those that will listen and can make the lifestyle change they need to. Any suggestions?

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Rob, that’s a pretty extreme detox reaction! Sometimes it helps to take healthy changes one or two steps at a time. You’re doing SEVERAL things that, all by themselves, might overwhelm some of the body’s elimination systems. Is there something you’re missing, when you go into this very pure phase of “eating right?” Depression and lethargy are really common symptoms when we make positive changes. They are short-term symptoms, though. Hang in there, and maybe slow down a little! (Sometimes we “crash hard” after a few days because addictions make us emotional.)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Rob, how about going about this using Robyn’s 12 steps program. Just make one change per month. Then it would not be such a shock to your system.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Rob, I feel like making healthy changes has been a total rollercoaster. I too have had weird detox times and then I’m even better after and think it’s over, but then I’ll start detoxing again. My husband has been experiencing the same thing. Some days we skip green smoothies, cause it just doesn’t sound good, but we still eat raw or whole foods in place of it. Tonight instead of a green salad we had a raw carrot salad. Just wasn’t feeling like eating greens tonight. But thank you for writing about your experience. I thought I was the only one and I’ve been very frustrated at times! Good luck! Those darn food addictions are nasty but we can beat them with God’s help! 🙂

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      hi Sarah,

      Green smoothies aren’t a requirement. A carrot salad, or other raw/whole foods, are great too. Some people are good at making a wide variety of dishes that are really wholesome and nourishing. (Usually the ones who love puttering in the kitchen. I’m not one of those people.) The whole point of GS is just that it’s so easy to get into a HABIT of making/drinking them, and then it’s not something you have to decide every day, to do. Then you don’t get to the end of the day and think, “Wow, another day of not eating very well–or feeling very well.” But it sounds like you’re doing great things on green-smoothie days and those when you don’t make any! Good job!

  5. Anonymous says:

    It kills me to know stuff like this since there are several people in my family that have dealt with or are dealing with cancer (not to mention other heath issues). Some of them know of my changing eating habits and I feel like they are skeptical. I wish it was easier to talk to people about this before someone has to die unnecessarily, you know?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sarah, I totally know what you mean! It just kills me to see people suffering and then turn their nose up at the idea of changing their toxic diet. I just have to remember that you can’t preach to someone who isn’t ready to listen.

  7. Anonymous says:


    You’re detoxing. When you go cold turkey off junk and sugar, it hits you pretty bad. The best solution is plenty of water, mildly-brewed green tea, plenty of rest, and light exercise (believe it or not, a fast, brisk 20 minute walk takes the sting out of detox, take a walk even when you don’t want to!). Most of all, don’t stop eating well! If you continue eating well, especially with a daily green smoothie, the detox period will be over in less than 10 days. You can handle 10 days! 😀

  8. Anonymous says:

    Rob, Hang in there!

    Everyone is right about detox and we do all experience different things so just try and stick it out and know that although it’s uncomfortable it’s actually a positive thing that’s happening to you. It means your detoxing the body. It took us YEARS to accumulate all these toxins so it takes time to get them all under control. I love my daily green smoothies but in the beginning I had put my body into some serious shock with all these greens so I just had to take it slow. Now I actually crave greens and much less cravings for the junk. Stay hydrated and try to sip on either clean water or tea throughout the day. Don’t wait until your thirsty. MY BF and I also had muscle pains and sore joints and headaches and that’s just to name a few. It helps to know it’s a sign of detox and okay to feel these things. Everyone on GSG is so great about giving feedback so I hope you stay connected on here.

  9. Anonymous says:


    Do you have any GSG recommendations for those that have a history of colitis? I am 95% symptom free – thanks to a whole foods, plant based Macrobiotic diet (mostly cooked whole grains, beans, veggies – vegan plus some fish). I am interested in adding in green smoothies, but I’m a little worried they might trigger a flare-up. Perhaps starting out with small amounts and limiting the fruit (too much fruit doesn’t seem to work for me.)

    Thank you very much.

    In response to your blog, I was raised with a pretty healthy diet. My parents didn’t allow sugar, soda, red meat, hot dogs, white bread, etc., but I did take A LOT of medication growing up for asthma and allergies, and I constantly took antibiotics for ear infections, and strep. I’m convinced that the colitis symptoms, which came on during college after several years of eating really well (mostly vegetarian whole foods), were my body’s effort to try to purge all the drugs from my system.

  10. Cyndie Simmons says:

    Pork and seafood products like crab, shrimp, and lobster are bad for you 😉 There is a reason our Heavenly Father told us not to eat them [Leviticus 11], because they are the “garbage disposals of the land and the sea. So when you eat them … you are eating all the garbage they ate which is filled with toxins and parasites! Once I learned that years ago, it was so easy to give up 😀

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