The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, released a harrowing statement on red meat and processed meat — basically, it’s going to give you cancer if you eat it.
This is horrible news for those of us who adore things like bacon, ham and sausage (in fact, what did you have for breakfast today?). Also to blame? Hot dogs, beef jerky, corned beef and canned meat. But the IARC holds firm on the findings of a Working Group consisting of 22 experts from 10 countries, which are as follows:
- Processed meat has been classified as carcinogenic to humans. This means the agency has found sufficient evidence to state that its consumption causes colorectal cancer.
- There was also a positive association between processed meat and stomach cancer.
- The experts state that each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten each day constitutes up to an 18 percent increase in risk of colorectal cancer.
- Red meat (unprocessed) is probably carcinogenic. This means there is limited evidence that red meat causes colorectal cancer.
- There was also an association noted between red meat and pancreatic and prostate cancers.
- The overall risk of developing colorectal cancer due to consumption of processed meat remains small, but the more you consume, the greater the risk is.
This report has unsurprisingly been met with horror as well as skepticism. As experimental data for this study was scarce or absent (which would require years of humans eating a controlled diet, while also controlling for other variables), the experts in this situation had to rely on existing data, more than 800 epidemiological studies and observational studies of human diets and the outcomes of those who consumed them.
As with most sweeping statements of this sort, which can seem like nothing more than scare tactics, you must keep in mind that if you consume too much of anything (including water), you will find it’s not good for you — and can possibly kill you. It must also be noted that this panel of experts did not asses the nutrients found in meat that may possibly offset the small increased risk of certain types of cancers.
That said, it’s really not a bad idea to eat these types of foods in moderation. The typical American diet is definitely meat-laden, which is delicious, but it’s been long known that pairing meat with more fresh fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward better health and better outcomes, especially when it’s coupled with plenty of exercise.
But try to pry all of our bacon, sausage and beef jerky from our paws, and you may have a problem.