Monday, May 23, 2011

Expert Panel Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer

A scientific panel that regularly reviews cancer research is telling people to stop eating processed meat.

The new Expert Panel report released today cautioned about red meat — which contributes significantly to colorectal cancer because people eat so much of it — but found a stronger link with processed meat. From the World Cancer Research Fund press release:

WCRF/AICR recommends that people limit consumption to 500g (cooked weight) of red meat a week — roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork — and avoid processed meat.

Processed meat is a broad category that includes lunch meat, hot dogs, ordinary sausage, bacon, and ham. The panel estimated that 1 in 14 people who eat 100 grams of processed meat per day will develop colorectal cancer. It’s a high enough risk for them to advise people not to eat processed meat.

The risk from red meat is also substantial, but only half that of processed meat. Excess body fat and alcohol consumption also contribute to colorectal cancer, according to the report, but not to the same extent as meat. Exercise and dietary fiber reduce the risk, and there is some evidence that dietary calcium and garlic may also help. These factors, though, have been suspected or known already; the one surprise in the report is the magnitude of the link between processed meat and colorectal cancer.

Meat is not featured in a healthy diet anyway because it is relatively empty in a nutritional sense. The scientific findings that connect meat to cancer and other diseases are just more reasons to eat less meat and more real food.