The American Cancer Society – this week (Nov 2015) – reinforced that the red meat link to cancer is non-existent when processed meat is not included in the data, and even when it is, the correlation is weak. Why does processed meat offer a small but measurable risk? Here is an except from The Blood Code that answers this question.
While I believe that you should not be in the top 20 percent of people who eat processed meat, the demonization of red meat should stop, given the current data. Results from a 2010 study have been consistent with many others that followed: “Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of CHD and diabetes mellitus. These results highlight the need for better understanding of potential mechanisms of effects and for particular focus on processed meats for dietary and policy recommendations.”[i]
In 2013, researchers studied 450,000 people, and made the following conclusions[ii]:
- High consumption of processed meat was related to moderately higher all-cause mortality. Red meat and poultry intake was not associated with mortality.
- Several vegetarian studies did not find increased all-cause mortality among non-vegetarians compared with vegetarians.
- There was consistent association between processed-meat consumption and total mortality, but not between red meat consumption and total mortality.
- There was no statistically significant association of red meat consumption with risk of cancer or cardiovascular mortality.
So what’s so bad about processed meat? In my book, The Blood Code, I do not attempt to offer a definitive answer for why processed meat—or any other processed food, for that matter—is harmful to your health. Suffice to say that processing foods with methods that have not been tried or tested over many generations is a risky venture. Traditional cuisine is safer. I don’t know the precise variable or set of variables that make processed meat so unhealthy. Is it the preservatives; the excess salt in relation to other mineral nutrients; or the oxidation and degradation of the fats due to excessive handling, transport, and storage times? Is it the packaging materials, or the growing, feeding, or slaughter conditions? Is it the addition of oxidized “pink slime” or other processed food protein to boost the leanness of the final meat product beyond what is normally found on the animal?
Simply stated, I believe that processed food is not healthy, and that includes common sandwich meats and things like “Clucko-Chicken-Bites.” This may sound obvious to many of you, but now conclusive research is on your side.
[i] Micha, R. RD, PhD; Wallace, S. K., BA; Mozaffarian, D., MD, DrPH. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus. Circulation 2010; 121:2271–83.
[ii] Rohrmann, S., et al. Meat consumption and mortality: Results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Medicine 2013; 11:63.