The IARC, a group within the World Health Organization, published a new report on Monday, October 26th, stating that processed meat is carcinogenic and red meat is probably carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is comprised of 22 scientists from 10 countries. They did a formal review of 800 studies showing a link between meat & cancer.
This report has caused some anger within the meat industry & confusion within the population of meat eaters. We can understand why this upsets the meat industry but what is causing the worlds confusion? Typically, it is caused by the way the media has presented the results.
The North American Meat Institute had their press release ready to run before the IARC report was out. “IARC Meat Vote Is Dramatic and Alarmist Overreach,” the statement was headlined. “IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air,” the group added, apparently referring to an IARC report that found air pollution can cause cancer.” You can read the entire article by clicking here: Glee, Panic and Yawns: U.S. Reacts to Report on Meat and Cancer The American Cancer Society was quoted as well: “For years AICR has been recommending that individuals reduce the amount of beef, pork, lamb and other red meats in their diets and avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage and hot dogs,” said Susan Higginbotham of the American Institute for Cancer Research. “The American Cancer Society has recommended limiting consumption of red and processed meat specifically since 2002,” Susan Gapstur of that group said.” Let’s look at what the IARC did say…….
IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat. This is a link to the actual press release by the IARC. Here are the highlights from the report:
- Red Meat: Classified as “probably carcinogenic to human beings”. This link to cancer was specifically found in colorectal cancer & “associations” were seen for pancreatic & prostate cancers.
- Processed Meat: Classified as “carcinogenic to human beings” This was based on evidence that processed meat causes colorectal cancer. It was added to the IARC Carcinogen List of proven carcinogens to humans which includes asbestos, tobacco & air pollution.
- Meat Consumption: For each 50 gram (1.76 ounces) serving of processed meat eaten daily will increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
- Recommendations: The larger the serving & the more often a person eats meat, the higher the risk for colorectal & possibly other cancers.
As you can see, the report has confirmed what we have already been told by other research studies regarding red & processed meats.
These articles were done well.
What to Know About Meat and Cancer: “The agency is not the first to reach the determination that processed meat, and possibly red meat, increases the risk of colorectal cancer—which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund have also concluded that eating even small amounts of processed meats on a regular basis can increase colorectal cancer risk.” Good read. Balanced & accurate.
Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer, experts say “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr Kurt Straif of the IARC said in a statement.” Also a good read 🙂 “But the bracketing of processed meat with products such as tobacco or arsenic irked industry groups, with the North American Meat Institute saying the IARC report “defies common sense”.”
The importance of this report is unmistakable. Processed meats cause colorectal cancer & there is a probability that red meat, including pork & lamb, increase the risk of colorectal cancer & possibly other cancers such as prostate & pancreatic.
Why is this upsetting the Meat Industry now? Why is it a main headline in the news? It is because the IARC is considered the Gold Standard when it comes to WHO’s health recommendations. The U.S. government is about to release their 2015 FDA Dietary Guidelines. There has been a lot of opposition to these new guidelines. The sugar & meat lobbyists have been battling to get the committee to be easier on their products. This report by the IARC would support the new guidelines. The FDA guidelines help schools make decisions on what to serve in cafeterias & guide health providers in dietary recommendations.
Here is a good synopsis of those guidelines in an article by WebMD. Surprises in Proposed New Dietary Guidelines: “The panel’s advice is under review by the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, which will issue the guidelines jointly later this year. The guidelines are published every 5 years, and they reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat. They can help people make healthy food choices through the USDA’s MyPlateprogram. The advisory committee’s new report puts an emphasis on eating a plant-based diet, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. But some so-called “bad” foods are back on the menu, too.”
The bottom line in all this is that you have to make a choice based on the risk factors. Are you willing to take the risk of an 18% increase in colorectal cancer by eating a hotdog, salami, bacon, steak, ham, or lamb on a daily basis?
My recommendation is to stop eating processed meats. Processed meats are probably carcinogenic because of the following;
- Addition of compounds such as nitrites.
I also recommend eating any meat, be it red, chicken, fish, etc., no more than once a week. If you choose to eat it more often, then once again I have to invoke the dreaded M word for all meat; moderation! Red meats, pork & lamb should be consumed in moderation. I serving: 80 grams or less once a day. Eat them once a month or once a week if you choose to. But not daily. Have meals with chicken, fish, legumes & nuts. Mix up what your source of protein is. This is nutritionally better for you anyway. When you buy any meat, choose antibiotic & growth hormone free. Grass fed is also a good choice. Organic meats are not that expensive if you are serving smaller portions.
This is the perfect time to bring up the latest news regarding brain health & the Mediterranean diet. These articles came out this past week.
Mediterranean diet and brain structure in a multiethnic elderly cohort: This is the actual research study if you are interested.
- Eat Mediterranean diet for a healthier and younger brain “Scientists know that people who exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and keep mentally stimulated generally have healthier brains than people who aren’t as careful about diet and exercise. This latest study from the journal Neurology shows how one easy-to-follow diet (which includes wine!) may make your brain about five years younger.” This is a great article about this new study. “This latest Mediterranean diet research builds on other evidence that the diet is likely the way to go. It has also been shown as a key to helping you live longer. It helps you manage your weight better and can lower your risk for cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. Bottom line: you’ll likely be physically and mentally healthier long into old age if you stick with this diet.”
- Why should you adopt the Mediterranean diet: “Lead scientist Dr Yian Gu, from Columbia University in New York, says, “These results are exciting, as they raise the possibility that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of ageing on the brain simply by following a healthy diet.” Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, adds, “There is an increasing amount of evidence that eating a healthy diet, rich in fish, vegetables, legumes and nuts is good for your brain. This study delves further into the potential benefits that diet could have, but it does not prove that a Mediterranean-style diet can stop your brain from shrinking as you age. Other key ways to keep your brain healthy is to take as much physical exercise as you can, stop smoking and keep your blood pressure in check.”
“Chemo brain” was not mentioned in this study but I would think that following the Mediterranean diet sure couldn’t hurt! If it supports brain health then why not give it a try!
I am sure this is not the end of the controversy surrounding meat. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Cancer is a complex disease. Many different elements can trigger the cancer cell to grow. You can only do your best to limit the risk. Take the information above & make an informed decision for you and your family’s dietary decisions. Reread the information on our website to help you. If you have questions or concerns please email me.
Have a Happy Halloween. This is a picture of my pumpkins. I painted them this year 🙂
- Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili with Toasted Pepitas I love this recipe & make it often. I use dried beans cooked before adding the other ingredients.
- Pumpkin Soup
- Pumpkin Spelt Muffins