In October (2015), 22 scientists from 10 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France to evaluate the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat.
It is said, “You can’t keep a hat pin in a cloth bag for very long. The point comes out.”
So, I was pleased, but not really surprised, when I read the IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared, after reviewing more than 1,100 epidemiological studies, that processed meats cause cancer and that red meat is a “probable” carcinogen, as well. (1)
The very act of cooking animal muscle oxidizes muscle proteins and forms heterocyclic hydrocarbons that are proven carcinogens in their own right. (2)
A second surge of carcinogens is added to the stool mass when bacteria in the gut digest the heme protein (from blood left in the animal’s muscle) into more cancer-provoking chemicals. (3)
Because animal muscle has no fiber in it, these carcinogen-carrying stool masses move more slowly through the colon, giving them an extra-long time to smear their cancer-causing chemicals on the wall of the colon. (4)
The scientific links are not hard to see, nor is the predictable backlash and rationalizations that follow the WHO announcement. The message is clear: a diet based on seared, smoked and processed animal flesh is a deadly one. As a result, food choices should not be hard to make!
1) IARC’s “Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat”:
2) Red Meat and Cancer:
– “Well-done, grilled red meat increases the risk of colorectal adenomas.” Sinha, R. et al. Cancer Research 59.17 (1999): 4320.
– Intake of fat, meat and fiber in relation to risk of colon cancer in men. Giovannucci E., Rimm E. B., Stampfer M. J., Colditz G. A., Ascherio A., Willet W. C. Cancer Res., 54: 2390–2397, 1994.
– Relation of meat, fat and fiber intake to the risk of colon cancer in a prospective study among women. Willet W. C., Stampfer M. J., Colditz G. A., Rosner B. A., Speizer F. E. N. Engl. J. Med., 323: 1664–1672, 1990.
– Relation of meat, fat and fiber intake to the risk of colon cancer in a prospective study among women. Kune, Gabriel A. The Medical Journal of Australia 193.11–12 (2010): 648–652.
– “Red meat intake and cancer risk: a study in Italy.” Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, Tavani, A. et al. International Journal of Cancer 86.3 (2000): 425–428. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. p. 116.
3) Heme as Carcinogen:
– Heme of consumed red meat can act as a catalyst of oxidative damage and could initiate colon, breast and prostate cancers, heart disease and other diseases. Tappel, A. (2007). Medical Hypotheses 68 (3): 562–564.
– Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium”. Sesink, A. L. A.; Termont, D.; Kleibeuker, J.; Van Der Meer, R. (2001) Carcinogenesis 22 (10): 1653–1659.
– Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem, but not fat, has cytotoxic and hyperproliferative effects on rat colonic epithelium. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van Der Meer R.Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, NIZO Food Research, Department of Nutrition, Quality and Safety, PO Box 20, 6710 BA Ede, The Netherlands.
(4) PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20456. Epub 2011 Jun 6. Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies. Chan DS, Lau R, Aune D, Vieira R, Greenwood DC, Kampman E, Norat T.