Thursday 29 October 2015

Red Meat and Cancer. I there really a connection. Part.1

              In the past couple of days you've probbably been seeing headlines of the "Red Meat as Carcinogenic as Smoking!" variety.Are reporters taking crazy pills,or is there really something to the headlines this time.I am going to try and make this very complex issue understandable so that you can make your own educated decision. I am neither for ,or, against eating red meat.
             To understand this issue,you have to understand a bit about the science of red meat metabolites as well as about epidemiology(the study of how often disease occurs in different groups of people and why). Being labeled as a carcinogen is fairly common.Not only are harmful compounds like alcohol potentially carcinogenic,but so are health elixirs aloe vera and yerbamate tea.The true impact depemds on the dose ,what makes up the rest of your diet,and many other factors.
                                                      Know you meat
              First off ,you better know what exactly red meat is. Pork is not white meat.That's right ! The meat in mammals like pig is typically red when raw ,due to its high hemoglobin(a red protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood) content.Resaechers consider pork to be red meat.But there may be something in red meat that could potentially cause cancer. 
           Earlier this month reseachers of met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC).After analysing over 800 studies IARC came up with some pretty strong conclusions regarding red meat. They classified processed red meat as a "Group 1" carcinogen ("carcinogenic to humans"). As for regular red meat,it was classified as a "Group 2A " carcinogen (" probably carcinogenic to humans"). The findings were mostly referring to cancer of the colon or rectum.You can not generalize the researchers findings to all other cancer types. It's not like we didn't know this stuff already. Processed red meat has been strongly linked to colorectal cancer for years. I find it amusing that the media headlines of the past few days have been so extreme, since they're based on a 1.5 page summary. The complete report by the World Health Organization(WHO) won't be available for months. Is it possible the WHO could be wrong?
             Wrong is to strong a word.Let's just say "slighty off ". For example. The WHO position on salt intake call for less than 2,000 mg a day. There is a large amount of research out there that shows that keeping salt intake under 2,000 mg/day doesn't just lack evidence for benefit but might actually be harmful. That doesn't mean that eating a ton of salt via processed food is healthy. It just means that obsessive salt reduction is probably not a grat idea for most people.
            Much of the evidence that was reviewed was done so by observing large groups of people over time to see if disease developes. Even so. These type's of studies should not be ignored. You can't really do many cancer trials ,since cancer takes so long to develope and so many causative factors are involved. But you have to take the good with the bad. Finally,and i can't say this enough: The dose makes the poison. If your red meat intake is high,plus it's the processed kind that is much more likely to cause cancer. But if you have a grass-fed  beef burger once or twice a week, that's not even close to being a sure-fire recipe for cancer.
           In part 2, I will cover what is it about red meat and processed red meat that creates the problem ?        

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