Eating red and processed meat—what do scientists say

Recent reports warn about a link between eating red and processed meat and the risk of developing cancer in the gut. These reports have resulted in new nutritional recommendations that advise people to limit their intake of red and processed meats. A recent perspective paper, authored by 23 scientists, published in the latest issue of journal Meat Science underlines the uncertainties in the scientific evidence and points to further research needed to resolve these issues and improve the foundation for future recommendations on the intake of red meat.

The review discusses recent studies on associations between red and processed meat intake and in humans and animals. In animals it is possible to promote cancer by giving the animals a chemical cancer challenge and a basic "standard" diet that is high in meat, but doesn't contain any ingredients that protect and can help the gut stay healthy. This means no vegetables, no fiber, no milk or other sources of calcium. In other words, the "standard" diet of the lab animals is not very comparable to that of humans. The many differences between diets for humans and laboratory animals may explain why the results seem to differ: in humans, the observed association between red and processed meat intake and cancer is relatively small in magnitude, but consistent, and may still present a serious public health impact. The 23 researchers conclude that other foods, in cooperation with the bacteria that live in the gut, may protect the gut so any potential adverse effects of meat may become less pronounced or may even be fully prevented.

The team of scientists further concludes that science does not yet have a full understanding of how food that we eat affects our gut and our health. To get a better grip on this complex issue, it is necessary that improved measures of how much meat people eat, the composition of the meat they eat, and how this affects the risk that cancer develops. At the same time, efforts to make healthier in general need to continue.

More information: The paper is published open access in Meat Science. www.sciencedirect.com/science/… ii/S0309174014000564

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Balanced diet required in prevention of cancer

Sep 06, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Balancing your diet with protective foods rich in fibre and vitamin C can help prevent the formation of cancer causing compounds in the gut, the British Science Festival will hear today.

Caution to pregnant women on red meat diabetes link

Dec 10, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant can make use of the summer holiday season to adjust their diets and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, according to researchers at the University ...

Processed meat linked to premature death

Mar 06, 2013

In a huge study of half a million men and women, research in Biomed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine demonstrates an association between processed meat and cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Recommended for you

Tracking spending among the commercially insured

2 hours ago

Recent growth in health care spending for commercially insured individuals is due primarily to increases in prices for medical services, rather than increased use, according to a new study led by researchers at The Dartmouth ...

Taking aim at added sugars to improve Americans' health

6 hours ago

Now that health advocates' campaigns against trans-fats have largely succeeded in sidelining the use of the additive, they're taking aim at sugar for its potential contributions to Americans' health conditions. But scientists ...

Drink up for exercise, but not too much

9 hours ago

With students heading back to school, fall sports are in full swing. In addition to training, eating right, and getting enough sleep, a significant key to health and performance is staying hydrated. However, the recent tragic ...

User comments