Last week the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement about red and processed meat and cancer. Their findings, “consumption of red is probably carcinogenic to humans.” The association between red and processed meat and cancer was seen in colorectal cancer, but also pancreatic and prostate cancer.
The statement went on to state that a “50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”
Ok, so what does that mean and how does it affect you? First let’s make sure we all understand the terminology stated.
1. What is red meat and processed meat?
“Red meat refers to all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.”
“Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood.”
"Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces."
2. Do these findings mean that you should stop eating red and processed meats?
No, you don’t need to stop eating red and processed meat today. But moderation and selection in the type of meat continues to be a key tool when we discuss diet. Eating meat has some known health benefits. Red meat is high in iron and rich in vitamin B12. But many health organizations from around the nation recommend limiting consumption of red and processed meat. These types of meats are linked to increased risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. Therefore, it is important to look at your overall frequency and amount you are consuming.
3. What portion of red meat should I be consuming?
A 3 oz cooked portion – which is about the size of a deck of cards is the recommended amount. And no more than 6 oz of lean meat per day. If you are truly following a diet of moderation and variety, you would not be consuming red meat every day. Some days you might go vegetarian, other days fish or poultry would be selected.
Moderations is key, but there are some other general recommendations you should consider when consuming meat.
• It is important to choose lean cuts of meat, and it is also recommended to cut visible fat off of your meat.
• Prepare your meats by baking, broiling, roasting or stir- frying
• Remove the skin and fat on poultry
• Consider non-animal protein sources like cooked beans, peas or lentils, soybean or nuts