Red and Processed Meats - A Lifestyle Choice

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019
28% Higher Risk

increased risk of cancer with the over-consumption of red meats.

Healthy Meats

Replace red meat intake with healthier options like fish or poultry.

20% Higher Risk

increase in risk cancer with consumption of processed meats.

For many meat-eaters, few meals are as much of a treat of that juicy, medium-rare rump steak. However, maybe “rare” should be a better word for the number of times you indulge in this dish. 


Bad news for the carnivore connoisseurs out there: your love of red meat could increase your chances of falling victim to colorectal (i.e. your lower colon and rectum) cancers. Studies out of the United States and Europe seem to indicate that long-term meat consumption could potentially become a pain in the butt further down the line.


A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%

“- Harvard Health

The Cancer Connection To Red Meat

Back in 2005, a pair of studies into the red-meat connection took place in Europe and the United States. The U.S. study, which was sponsored by the American Cancer Society, tracked 148 610 people between the ages of 50 and 74 with heavy emphasis on diet and health patterns. 


Just over a decade after the study began back in 1982, a number of these subjects, who had indicated a taste for red and processed meats, revealed a noticeable increase in the risk of cancer in the lower colon and rectum.  Meanwhile, in Europe, researchers were wrapping up their own study into this meaty matter. This larger study observed the effects of red meat consumption on 478 000 men and women, who were entirely cancer-free in the beginning. Five years later, 1 329 of these subjects were diagnosed with colon cancer. This group were recorded as having eaten the highest volume of red meat (roughly 5 ounces per day and up). In stark contrast, the group of subjects, who ate the least red meat (less than one ounce per day on average), were determined to have a lower risk of developing this type of cancer.


These weren’t the only two studies to make the red-meat cancer connection. 2005 was a long time ago, and the evidence against red meat has only piled up since then.


Why is Red Meat So Risky?

Scientists have developed a few theories as to what exactly makes red meat tasty, but potentially risky to consume:

  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These are chemicals produced in the meat when it is cooked at high temperatures.
  • Preservatives: This danger lies primarily in processed meats. Specifically, nitrates are converted into nitrosamines in the body, and these are highly carcinogenic.
  • Carbon Monoxide: Yikes! But yes, this is another unfortunate additive in many supermarket meats. When the myoglobin protein in red meat (which lends it that rosy hue) loses its oxygen, grocers will pump this stuff in to keep their meats looking fresh for weeks.

This indicates that preservatives, hormones, and other additives in meats are major culprits for poor health. Try to stick to certified organic, hormone and preservative-free meats.


So, Is All Meat Dangerous?

These studies concluded that an over-indulgence in red meats can lead to colon cancer – but that doesn’t mean all meat dishes are off the menu. Lean, red meats are safe as long as they are enjoyed in moderation. Break up your steak dinners with other lean meats like fish and chicken or turkey (minus the skin).


In the U.S. study, long-term consumption of these paler meats appeared to reduce the risk of colon cancer by roughly a third!

However, the experts agree that the one meat that is worth losing your appetite for altogether must be processed meats. These are your cured, salty, chemically preserved meaty treats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausages and tinned meats.

Combine your lean not-red meats with a high-fibre diet and you can bet your backside that your colon will keep in good health for many years to come!

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