Meat Consumption

MMVBS Integrated Health Group

Meat Consumption By Aydin Bengisu L.Ac.

The most recent news released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, a branch of the World Health Organization, WHO, now officially reveals that red and processed meats are carcinogenic at varying degrees.

While some practitioners at MMVBS have been promoting a plant-based (or less animal protein) diet for years, in order to help prevent and control diseases ranging from diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and cardiovascular disease, the IARC working group looked at over 800 studies of meat consumption, with people eating diverse diets, that reveal links with over a dozen types of cancer around the world. And they noted that the strongest evidence comes from large cohort studies looking at populations for the last 20 years.

“These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,” says Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC.

Red meat refers to any mammalian muscle meat from beef, pork, veal, lamb, mutton, horse and goat. A group of 22 experts from 10 countries classified the consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.” This association seemed to be highest for colorectal cancer with strong links also to pancreatic and prostate cancers.

Processed meats include hotdogs, sausages, corned beef and beef jerky. In other words, meat that has been transformed through salting, smoking, fermentation, curing or other methods which are used to increase color, taste and prolong shelf-life. These are often simply called “nitrates” (sodium nitrate) or “nitrite”.  Both can lead to the formation of nitrosamines which can damage cells and morph into molecules that can cause cancer.

The IARC working group statement says that “processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

The IARC’s experts concluded that each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. In effect, cured and processed meats can now be placed in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

In conclusion, it is important to determine your own level of risk taking given the latest findings on meat consumption. We understand not everyone will become vegan, but we are encouraged that this new position by WHO will at least allow consumers and our patients to make more educated choices and to inspire them to include more hi-fiber, plant-based foods such as fresh vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes and grains into their diet.

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