For years we have been told red meat is good for our health, but as it stands what we might know about this iron-rich food source (and diets like the paleo) could be all wrong. The World Health Organisation (WHO)released a statement (today, Oct 26) in The Lancet declaring processed meats such as sausages, ham, bacon and burgers as part of the “encyclopaedia of carcinogens”, and the most cancer-causing substances in the world, next to things like cigarettes, arsenic and asbestos.
But not just that, fresh red meat will be ranked as only slightly less dangerous than the processed meats – shocked?
Well you probably shouldn’t be. Because it’s not the first time we’ve heard about meat being a cause of cancer. A study out of Sweden found that eating more than 150 grams of processed meat lifts the risk of developing pancreatic cancer to 57 per cent. And another study, which collected data from 89,000 premenopausal women over a 20 year period, found that women who consumed high protein diets wereassociated with a 22 per cent increased risk of breast cancer overall.
So what is it about processed meats that are causing cancer?
“Processed meats are high in salt and fat. In addition, chemicals such as nitrites are added to many processed meats to maintain their colour and to prevent contamination. Nitrites can be converted in the stomach to carcinogenic nitrosamines,” says Clare Hughes, Cancer Council nutrition program manager
“Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by International Agency for Research (IARC) and found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard,’” Barry Carpenter, president of the North American Meat Institute, told the Daily Mail. “IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air, sit near a sun-filled window, drink wine or coffee, eat grilled food, or apply aloe vera.”
Barry said that the risks and benefits of a food or behaviour must be considered before telling everyone what to do.
The current guidelines include the recommendation that adults eat no more than 65g of red meat a day, and the World Cancer Research Fund said that processed meat should be avoided altogether.