The red meat and cancer link is a myth that has dogged the industry for decades. The notion that a nutrient-rich food like beef could cause cancer is simply illogical; however, the World Health Organization (WHO) is taking a closer look at this link. In fact, WHO says it will present in October 2015 the results of research aimed at determining whether red meat and processed meats are carcinogenic agents.
Lumping red meat and processed meats with other cancer-causing agents like cigarettes seems like a huge leap. Yet, if accomplished, we could soon see our favorite protein being taxed like alcohol or tobacco. Well-intentioned parents might choose to avoid beef in at-home meals. And such federal programs as school lunch and military meals could be impacted as well, if such a designation influences the 2020 update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Closer to home, the ramifications for U.S. beef producers would be disastrous; can you imagine what the markets would do if beef was deemed as cancerous?
According to a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 52 items are on the study list. These include such items as chlorinated drinking water, sugar-sweetened beverages, coffee, pesticides, aspartame, red meat and processed meats. These items will be evaluated “with top priority,” says IARC.
IARC’s “beef” with red meat was clearly stated in this internal report released last April, which reads, “Several meta-analyses have reported a small but mostly statistically significant elevated risk of colorectal cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat. Some studies suggested an association between increased risk of cancers of the oesophagus, lung and pancreas with the consumption of red meat, and increased risk of cancers of the lung, stomach and prostate with the consumption of processed meat.”
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Already, the North American Meat Institute has teamed up with other industry groups to gather research, dissect the science and prepare to present information at the meeting this fall. I’m confident the industry will provide ample science to present at the meeting, but will it be enough to dissuade the committee? And what can beef producers do to help in the fight?
Unfortunately, personal testimonies, written letters and lobbying won’t help persuade the committee as only approved researchers can present to the group. However, no matter what the outcome of IARC’s decision, producers can work now to disprove the red meat and cancer link. We can share research on our social media outlets, visit with friends, and comment on online articles that demonize red meat and processed meats as carcinogens.
I’ve rounded up five resources that help debunk the red meat and cancer link. Feel free to share these links with your friends on social media today.
1. “Red meat does not cause cancer, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal” by Amanda Radke for BEEF magazine
According to a new meta-analysis of large-scale prospective studies on red and processed meats and cancer published in Nutrition Journal, there is no independent positive association between consumption of red or processed meats and the development of prostate cancer.
2. A ketogenic diet can beat chemotherapy for almost all cancers, according to Thomas Seyfried.
While we may not know exactly what causes cancer, Thomas Seyfried, a leading cancer researcher and professor at Boston College, suggests that a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet (which includes plenty of saturated fat from red meat) can fight even the deadliest of cancers. You can listen to his lecture on this topic in the video below.
3. Patients can starve cancer and heal wounds with red meat, says Dominic D’Agostino, MD
Dominic D’Agostino, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology assistant professor, suggests a low-carb, high-fat diet can starve cancer in a recent TEDx Talk.
Plus, check out this success story of one man who used this anti-cancer diet to cure his cancer after his doctors gave him three months to live.
4. “Cancer scare doesn’t have much meat on its bones” featured on BEEF magazine
A World Cancer Research Fund report claiming red meat is linked to a higher risk of some cancers omitted 13 studies involving 1.6 million people, and 11 of those studies found no significant association between cancer and red meat consumption.
5. “How do people get cancer” by Craig B. Thompson, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center president and CEO
f you don’t have time to watch the half-hour presentation, fast forward to the 20-minute mark for Thompson’s suggestion that eating fat has no bearing on cancer risk, but it is carbohydrates that fuel cancer.
“It matters where your calories come from,” says Thompson. “If you overfeed someone with fat, you don’t increase their cancer risk at all. You overfeed somebody with carbohydrates, you dramatically increase the cancer rate.”
While the work of the cancer experts mentioned above may neither be widely known nor readily accepted, I believe these researchers are edgy, relevant, and on the precipice of changing the face of cancer prevention and treatment in the future. The best news -- they are finding success in curing cancer with red meat! My hope is the folks at IARC will consider this information before stamping red meat and processed meats with the same ugly “carcinogen” label as cigarettes.
Spread the word that red meat and processed meats do NOT cause cancer and can help prevent and even cure it. As the industry gathers evidence to present to IARC, the focus of beef producers should be on consumer perception. Let’s make a serious grassroots effort to debunk this misconception once and for all.
Are you worried about beef getting a carcinogen label? How should the industry respond to this? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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