By Sandra Miller/Nutritional Therapist
October 30, 2015
Last week the World Health Organization issued a statement that backed up its previous 2002 claim that red meat poses colorectal cancer risks. The latest health scare with meat comes as the W.H.O. share findings that “red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.” There was a special emphasis on processed meats. That would be those meats altered by salting, curing, fermentation, smoking to enhance flavor and improve shelf life.
Many are unaware that these processed meats could also contain offal (organs) and even meat by products such as the blood of the animal. More specifically targeted would be hot dogs, beef jerky, ham, sausage, bacon and canned meats. Included also were meat and meat based sauces. Meat has even been found in some vegetation processed meats.
I am sure when this report came out the entire vegetarian and vegan community shared a huge collective “I told you so.” When an international advisory committee met in 2014, their urgency was to follow up on epidemiological studies that seem to be suspecting small increases in the risks of several cancers including colorectal, that are linked with high consumption of red meats and processed meats. They do claim that the risks are small but their urgency is due to the fact that although the risks may be small, America’s consumption of these products is BIG.
Look at the Paleo movement in this country in just over the last 5 years. This group of eaters put bacon a pedestal, especially in light of the latest research showing that saturated fats alone do not raise cholesterol. Now the real culprit in this whole report seem to revolve around two things. The actual “preservation” methods and chemicals used to do so combined with other toxic by-products “created” by cooking the fat of the meat at high temperatures.
In quoting the WHO statement, it brings to light once again that “Cooking at high temperatures or with the food in direct contact with a flame or a hot surface, as in barbecuing or pan-frying, produces more of certain types of carcinogenic chemicals (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines). However, there were not enough data for the IARC Working Group to reach a conclusion about whether the way meat is cooked affects the risk of cancer.”
When the fat of meat hits the flame at high heat a chemical change occurs that does cause carcinogenic compounds. This holds most true for meats that are charred. You know, those lovely grill marks that make food look like it should be on the cover of a foodie magazine.
Raw meat poses its own set of challenges, although I suppose that having incisors (our canine teeth) indicates that we were created to eat meat at some point in our evolution. We were at least designed to be able to. If we look at dogs or wolves for example, we can clearly see that Mother Nature intended for them to have the ability to tear flesh. Even cats who are 100 percent carnivorous have very long flesh shredding teeth. Last time I looked, I did not have fangs. Is this a message to us humans that we should take heed when it comes to eating the meats of animals? We clearly don’t have the same design as our cats.
Red meat showed limiting evidence that warranted it to be classified as a Group 2 A carcinogen which indicates that it is “probably’ carcinogenic to humans. Processed meat came in at a Group 1 which would indicate “this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” Just for the record, tobacco and asbestos fall into the same Group 1 category. The IARC does however claim that the red and processed meats are not equally carcinogenic. They go on to cite that 34,000 deaths annually have causation linked to the consumption of processed meats but do not extend the same statistics to that or red meat.
How much is too much?
To quote the statement “An analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%. The statistics were much lower for red meat.Now, having shared that let me share some other information but first let me share a functional medicine quote”
“Correlation does not necessarily imply causation”
I point this out because there are multiple lifestyle factors that could have contributed to the outcome of these studies. I am not sticking up for processed meats but I do want to bring a light to world of darkness that the World Health Organization has just shed upon us once again. When these studies are done, the subjects may not be optimizing the genes they were given. We now know that genes “load the gun” but environment pulls the trigger.” This is why some of us will get cancer and some of us won’t. Today 1 in 2 people WILL get cancer in their lifetime. Processed meats are only one piece of the puzzle. Chemicals in our food and body products are causing more disease than Oscar Meyer ever could. It is the compounded nature of chemical assaults and poor lifestyle choices that decide who the chosen ones will be. Keeping the chemicals out of our meat is not different. Process meats are processed. Processed food should be kept to an absolute minimum.
I am not suggesting we throw caution to the wind with red meat either, but by following a few simple tips below I think most of us can breathe a sigh of relief and not have a guilt trip over an occasion few slices of uncured bacon or a bison burger.
Tips for safer consumption:
- When grilling meats avoid the meat from charring. Remove just prior to charring and bake off in the oven if the meat needs to continue to cook. While eating raw meat is not safe for obvious reasons, overcooked meat loses its enzymes. Our gut needs enzymes.
- FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM. Medium rare, that is. Meat should be a bit pink in the middle. That shows it is still mainly a live food and not a dead food. Chose good quality grass fed meats that are humanely raised and you decrease the risk of having a less-than-well-done meat pose a severe bacterial health threat. Meat that is overcooked really is not worth eating.
- It has been shown that grilling meat in BEER can reduce the chemical compounds that are cancer causing. For those of us who are gluten-free, we do have GF options. Here is a link to a fox news article detailing science behind why this works.
- Eat something with a high antioxidant content along with your meal. Polyphenolic compounds like those found in pomegranates, dark grapes, bilberries, cherries, dark plums, blackberries and blueberries were all good sources as well. Fruit juices, such as grape juice and pomegranate contain especially high levels of polyphenols. Even coffee (organic), dark chocolate (organic), red wine (organic of course) and raw onion would be great additions to the meal that includes the meat in question.
You could also take a supplement high in polyphenol like Maritime Pine Bark. Most people know this by the name pycnogenol. We all need to be protecting ourselves from free radical damage everyday. I use a pure version of pycnogenol (Pine Bark) from Bulk Supplements. This is the one I use.
The growing concern with all of this is the free radical formation that these foods appear to cause. A free radical is an “unpaired electron” and these electrons go rogue and cause damage in the body. Finding a way to fight the free radicals is something we should be doing anyway and can be an answer to the meat dilemma provided that we use moderation with meats and especially processed meats. A healthy human diet should include small quantities of meat, and the meat should never well done. A healthy human diet also includes loads of antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits. Eating the rainbow each day is a solid strategy in the fight against cancer. Arm yourself well.
Read the full report here: