Red Meat and Processed Meats Are Bad News

Red meat and processed meats contain more saturated fat and trans fat than other animal products, and, therefore, are poorer food choices. However, the fat issue does not tell the whole story. Scientific studies have documented that red meat has a much more pronounced association with colon cancer and pancreatic cancer compared with other animal products. The consumption of red meat and processed meats on a regular basis more than doubles the risk of some cancers. Even ingesting a small amount of red meat, such as two to three ounces a day, has been shown to significantly increase the risk of cancer.1 Toxic nitrogenous compounds (called N-nitroso) occur in larger concentrations in red meat and processed meats. Red meat also has high haem (also spelled heme) content. Haem is an iron-carrying protein, and it has been shown to have destructive effects on the cells lining our digestive tract.2 Processed meat, luncheon meat, barbequed meat, and red meat must not be a regular part of your diet if you are looking to maintain excellent health into your later years of life.

The frequent consumption of animal products also increases the risk of cancer. To achieve optimal health, we require a significant exposure to a full symphony of phytochemicals in unprocessed plant matter that we would not be eating sufficiently as animal products increase as a percent of total calories and the percentage of vegetation decreases proportionally. Also, since animal products contain no fiber, they remain in the digestive tract longer, slowing digestive transit time and allowing heightened exposure to toxic compounds.

Your goal is to gradually reduce the consumption of animal products in your diet until you’re only consuming them two to three times per week, but you should certainly avoid processed meat and barbecued meat.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.

1. Chao A, Thun JT, Connell CJ, et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA 2005;293:172-182.

2. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van der Meer R. Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium. Carcinogenesis 2001;22(10):1653-1659. Hughes R, Cross AJ, Pollock JR, Bingham S. Dose dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic N-nitrosation. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(1):199-202.

Image credit: splorp

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Steve - September 8, 2009 9:14 AM

Hi Gerry

If you are a big fan of red meats you should go to Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" website.

They now have an article talking about yummy red red meats. I like Lance, but there are a lot of articles at that site about how great meats, dairy and even "the new stents" are.

Sounds like the site has been pretty much taken over by mainstream thinking. Too bad.

Regards, Steve

Rob - June 5, 2011 10:49 AM

Good thing we have Dr. Mercola.

Chad - June 7, 2011 4:29 PM

Isn't it true that all this evidence is observational, and thus only shows a correlation between meat eating and cancer?

Isn't it also true that correlations are not proof of cause, and that there could be hundreds (thousands?) of other explanations for the correlation?

Isn't it also true that an RR of less than 5 in an observational study is considered too low to show even a strong correlation (seems like these red meat/cancer correlations are all less than RR of 2)?

Why hasn't anybody done any randomized controlled trials on this relationship? Wouldn't this be a far superior form of evidence?

And if I am correct about the power of observational evidence (which is almost nil below RR of 5), why do researchers keep reporting on this correlation like it is actually strong evidence of a causal relationship (eg. The WCRF report that just came out supposedly confirming that red meat causes colorectal cancer)?

Thanks for your time,

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