We’ve known since 2015 that processed and red meats cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), who advise the World Health Organisation, released this news and at the time, the media were all over it. However, the chances are, it got lost in all the other food-related articles, and a little reminder of the implications of this might be helpful.
Firstly, you can read the IARC press release by clicking here. This is the information that led to the news reports. It is easy to read, not too jargon-filled and I highly recommend you take this type of information straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.
What exactly are the risks?
In a nutshell, the World Health Organisation looked at over 800 studies that “investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets.” They came to the conclusion that “each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%”. Colorectal cancer is what is more commonly known as bowel, rectal or colon cancer.
On the IARC website this article was published by The Lancet, a Journal intended for health professionals, which states that they also found a 17% increase per every 100grams of red meat eaten. This is not stated in the press release mentioned above but I believe it is of equal importance as a statistic.
What is the UK government doing about it?
Currently in the UK, the government’s advice is to limit red meat to 90 grams a day and processed meat to 70 grams a day. If we all did that we would not be protected from the significant risks we have been warned about. Once again, we have a piece of advice that is delivered so nervously by British government, as if to avoid making too big of a fuss, and thereby creating a big news story without any real action resulting.
To be crystal clear, what are these meats they’re talking about? Commonly found red meat consists of beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison, horse and goat. A processed meat is anything that has been modified from its natural state, through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. This includes sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, bacon, beef jerky, and a whole host of other substances being sold as food.
Surely it can’t be as bad as cigarettes?
And what exactly do we mean by cancer-forming? Processed meat is classified by the WHO as a Class 1 carcinogen, alongside arsenic, asbestos and smoking tobacco. Red meat has been classified as Class 2, which includes such items as bitumen and biomass fuel burning. So removing all societal acceptation and conformity, the avoidance of tobacco smoking should be taken as seriously as the avoidance of bacon. And if you limit your exposure to bitumen, the logical move would be to avoid red meat also.
I get asked so often about bringing back meats and other foods that were removed for the healing of eczema, but my answer is always this: if you think of smoking now again as particularly negative to health, then please apply that same logic to the prospect of eating sausages now and again. The WHO has shown us that the health implications are similarly negative.
The seeds of confusion
A lot of people talk about the amount of contrasting advice we are bombarded with – the media is constantly delivering stories that are contradictory to each other, and keep the confusion levels high in society. Always look at the source. If this advice has come from the World Health Organisation – it’s not to be compared to a magazine article that has originated from independent organisations who have unknown vested interests.
As you can imagine the majority of ‘experts’, nutritionists and doctors continue to walk a tightrope at this point. The research results go directly against one of the biggest industries in the western world and against much of the dietary advice that has been given out in our society. Thus, it appears that many are taking the ‘everything in moderation’ cliché, which ensures they stay on the right side of everybody.
ALL essential vitamins, minerals and other food elements are available in abundance on a whole foods, plant based diet. There is literally no reason to get involved with blood and guts in an attempt to eat a healthful diet. Much research shows that you are not only able to live healthfully without animal products, you are better off without them.