The WHO recently put out a report that says basically All red meat, especially the smoked & salted stuff we seem to instinctively-love, is dangerous to your health and either Will or May cause colorectal, and possibly stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.
This is almost exactly the same thing Harvard Medical School put out a few years ago, with very similar conclusions.
So to that end, here are a few things to think about:
I. How Does It Happen?
1) The scientists think that chemicals involved with: processing, its natural red color, and other naturally-present substances like creatine & amino-acids, combine with the heat from cooking to create compounds called ~Nitrosamines that damage your digestive tract & start the process of disease.
1a) Because of the natural substances that are always there, Quality of meat may be less of a factor in safety than previously-thought.
2) The other sources of the disease (HCA & PAH) are believed to come from exposure to High Heat & Burning, Smoking or Charring.
3) Some studies suggest that Iron in the meat & Bacteria in the Gut may also play roles, but the jury is far from in on those 2 measures.
II. What’s The Actual Risk?
4) Barring additional health/lifestyle/genetic/etc. factors, The average population has a 5% lifetime risk of the diseases in-question.
5) According to the WHO, Your Additional-Risk is as-follows:
– Each 50g (.10lb) of Processed Red Meat eaten, ex: ~one Hot-Dog per day, every day of your life, increases your risk by, (not to) 18%.
5b) So for 1 portion: 5% * 1.18 = 5.9% lifetime colo-rectal cancer risk.
5c) Each 100g (~1/4lb.)/day of Unprocessed Red Meat eaten appears to have the same risk-increase as 50g of processed red meat.
III. What Can Someone Do About It In Order To Play It Safe?
6) Try not to eat processed meats.
6a) Really really try not to eat processed meats that are cooked.
7) If you have to, you may be able to to mitigate your risk by getting meats not cured with Sodium NitrATE & Sodium NitrITE, but there are no guarantees.
7a) Some clever nutritionists even argue there is no such thing as “uncured” processed meat, because the celery-powder they use instead has Sodium NitrITE anyway.
7b) Some of them think you might even be getting MORE NitrITEs that way.
8) Companies like Applegate’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods all have “uncured” Cold Cuts, And yes, Bacon that don’t have added Sodium NitrATE, or the allegedly-really-bad: Sodium NitrITE.
9) Substituting Regular Bacon with Turkey Bacon may reduce the amount of red-color-compound (haem) you get. (yes, this is heresy; apologies)
10) If you can’t get any of the previous 3 brands of “uncured” processed meats, go for Turkey. It’s the least likely to be cured with Sodium Nitrite. Paying up for quality may ensure this a little more.
11) Reduce the frequency & amount you eat red meat; so you can get more of the best quality your budget will permit.
12) Eating less fatty cuts may also lower some health risks.
13) Try to get humanely-raised, antibiotic-free, Grass-Fed Organic beef as often as you possibly can.
13a) Some Whole Foods stores have un-fancy cuts of it at somewhat-reasonable prices.
14) No direct-flame-contact grilling.
15) No burning, or charring; -especially from fatty cuts that drip onto coals which then vaporize the burned fat as PAH back onto the food.
16) Reducing consumption of Smoked Meats may also help lower your exposure to PAHs.
17) Avoiding starting-fluid, or starter-impregnated briquettes, when cooking on charcoal grills might also help reduce PAHs, too.
18) If you want hamburgers, a few suppliers like the previous 3 do make Organic.
19) You can also do like the old-timers do & get your own cuts of organic meat & grind them up yourself. You also cut down on food-borne pathogens and chemicals that way.
20) Staying away from things like Hot Dogs & Bologna should lower some health risks, also. Hot dogs are some of the worst food you could eat outside of a 24-hour diner situated inside reactor 4 in Chernobyl.
21) According to these findings, the Ascorbic-Acid type of chemically-derived+produced Vitamin C will make nitrosamine-formation worse if you have any fat in your stomach at the time, so it may not prevent them as much as previously-thought.
22) Partially Pre-Cooking meat in the microwave prior to pan-frying or grilling may reduce the amount of HCA & PAH in the final product.
23) Turning the meat frequently may also reduce the amount of HCA in the final product also.
24) The typical practices of: Eat plenty of fruits, veg, leafy-greens, broccoli, stay lean & active, etc.
25) And Most-Importantly, Getting Routine Colonoscopies & polyp-maintenance starting at the appropriate age can cut your risk of the disease in-question by almost 50%!
IV. Small Nitpicks That Probably Make Zero Difference:
26) The WHO could improve how they’re perceived by giving each environmental or dietary element a more refined risk-number (ex: out of 1-100). Their current categories may not be helping to get the seriousness of the message out.
27) The WHO could help people by at least suggesting safe-er cooking methods.
27a) The high-heat, burned & vaporized fat, direct-flame-contact methods resulting in some kind of burn or char are probably much more dangerous than others like oven-roasting, or pan-frying under Medium Heat with no burning.
28) On the previous Harvard study, one health expert combed through the research and found: As red meat consumption rose, so did all other health-risk factors like obesity, inactivity, etc.
28b) Complications like this may skew the average risk-level higher.
29) Some studies reach “False Positives”. -And given the WHO includes things like Coffee in some risk categories, maybe they occasionally reach false positives too.
30) Any study-results on diet usually suggest Correlation, not Causation. -Because it is extremely-hard to isolate people’s diet for such a long time. So that may mitigate some of the conclusions the WHO tries to make.
Photo Credits: Still Image Meme of Sterling Archer Irritating Lana Kane with his signature quote, “Danger Zone”, via QuickMeme and originally from the TV show by Adam Reed, Matt Thompson, Casey Willis, Neal Holman, Eric Sims, Bryan Fordney, Floyd County Productions, Radical Axis, FX Productions, and 20th Television
• Source(s): WaPo, Vox, & CancerResearchUK
• More Coverage: Cancer.gov-HCA & PAH FAQ | Cancercenter-Nitrite Dangers | Wikipedia-Sodium Nitrite | WCRF-Reducing Your Risk 1 & 2 | Colorectal Cancer Risk Calculator | Ascorbic Acid With Fat Increases Nitrosamine-Formation
• Source Studies: IARC Monographs- Evaluate Consumption of Red Meat & Processed Meat [PDF] | Lancet-Carcinogenicity of Consumption of Red and Processed Meat | AIM-Red Meat Consumption and Mortality, Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies