WHO: ‘Meat is carcinogenic’
ON OCT. 29, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that “the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to
humans and processed meat as carcinogenic to humans.“
The warning was based on the IARC Working Group of 22 experts’ review of more than 800 independent studies on cancer, more than 700 epidemiological investigations included data on red meat and more than 400 on processed meat.
On July 12, 2006, I discussed in this column the link between cancer and red unprocessed and processed meats. In another article, I wrote, “A diet high in processed meat (sausages, luncheon meats, etc.) may increase the risk of carnivores developing pancreatic cancer by almost 70%,” following the release of a major study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and released to the public in October 2005.
The study showed “an average of 41 cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed per 100,000 people each year among those who ate the most processed meat compared with 20 cases among those who ate the least.”
This research, which included 180,000 individuals, also found that individuals who ate even non-processed, fresh, red meats, including pork, beef and any other red meats, had a 50% higher risk of having cancer of the pancreas. While this is 20% lower compared to those who ate processed meats, 50 percent increase in the risk is still too high for comfort, since pancreatic cancer is a very painful and fatal disease, with no known cure.
In 2005 alone, 32,180 Americans and 60,000 Europeans were found to have pancreatic cancer, a disease that is often diagnosed late because they are not readily obvious clinically. Less than 5% of these patients live for more than five years after the cancer is first detected.
Scientists think the culprit-carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) may not be the saturated fat in red meats but the nitrate-based preservatives and the cooking method, like charcoal-grilling and broiling. Apparently, the cooking method and the nitrate preservatives each play a great role as carcinogens.
The burnt part of the meat, the black charcoal-like portion of the barbecued meat, is suspected to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). While meat has to be properly cooked to be safe, burning the meat is to be avoided.
While the saturated fat in fresh (no preservative) red meat does not appear to be linked to pancreatic cancer in this study, other studies have shown that people who eat red meat (even fresh and unprocessed) regularly have a higher risk for developing cancer of the colon, breast and other cancers in general, compared to those who minimize eating red meat or not at all. Red meat also causes a quick rise in cholesterol levels, a condition that increases the risk for the development of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s. In other words, the death rate in general among red meat-eaters is significantly higher.
How much risk is there?
Cancer risk increases the more processed meat is consumed. The risk for colorectal cancer is around 18% for every 50 gram of processed meats eaten daily. IARC data suggest a 17% increase in cancer risk for every 100 gram daily consumption of unprocessed red meat, only 1% lower compared to eating the processed variety.
How much hot dogs are consumed in the USA?
Roughly 633 hot dogs are eaten by Americans per second, or 37,980 every minute, almost 2.3 million an hour. According to Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, USA, Americans eat twenty billion hot dogs a year. This does not include those sold at ball games, which is about 30 million during regular pro season. As far as calories are concerned, hot dogs, also known as franks, are popular because they are inexpensive, convenient to eat and have fewer calories than pizzas or hamburgers. A hamburger, depending on the size and condiments with it, could provide 350 calories or have as high as 800 to 1,000 calories. A slice of pizza has 272 calories, while a hot dog has only 148.
Why do manufacturers process food items?
Food items are processed to preserve their texture, color, aroma, nutritive value, prevent bacterial growth and to maximize their “shelf life.” This is also true with either canned or frozen food items. To achieve all these, various strategies are employed. The two common ones are the use of chemical preservatives and additives, and controlled heat sterilization.
What in the processing technique or in the chemical additives and preservatives used is hazardous to health has not been fully determined, but the statistics are too overwhelming to ignore. The association between the illnesses mentioned above, especially cancer, and the regular ingestion of processed foods is very significant and scary. There is no question that FRESH and unadulterated is best!
Are toxic food items killing us softly?
In general, red meats, eggs (the yellow yolk), and other high cholesterol and high fat food items, especially processed foods, harm our body. The adverse effects on our various organs happen so slowly, taking decades before illnesses and symptoms manifest themselves, that we do not feel sick, or threatened immediately, and thus continue consuming these great-tasting foods regularly. Metaphorically speaking, the food items our body itself find toxic are poisons which are literally killing us slowly, some faster than others, depending on the dosage and frequency of abuse we throw at our DNA day in and day out, as I stated in the cancer-prevention book, Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children (www.phlipSchua.com).
What is the healthier option?
The proven healthier alternative is a diet composed of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, wheat, legumes and other high fiber foods. The high omega 3 contents in fish in general, and the phytochemicals in vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, and the other anti-oxidant flavanoids in this regimen, are all beneficial in their boosting effects on our immune system, and on their protective action for our cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health. Coupled with controlled carbohydrate and calorie intake, daily physical exercise, abstinence from tobacco and strict moderation in alcohol intake, and stress management, this gastronomic option is healthier, a life-saver, and one which maximizes people’s potential longevity.
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