“Red” Meat Healthy – “Processed” Meats Cause Cancer

b_800_400_16777215_0_0_images_articles_redmeat.jpg The devil is in the detail here but the important thing to understand is red meat IS healthy but when it is processed with the addition of cancer causing chemicals it is then NOT healthy.

Lets set the record straight on the meat causes cancer topic, what’s healthy and what’s not?

Research, Nothing New Here

Today the World Health Organisation, said: "Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer." Shocking when you take into account the amount of processed meats consumed in Ireland today, but there is nothing new here. In May 2011 the World Cancer Research Fund declared processed meats "unfit for human consumption" after completing a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer.

Not All Meat Is Dangerous, Meat Is Healthy

The devil is in the detail here but the important thing to understand is red meat IS healthy but when it is processed with the addition of cancer causing chemicals it is then NOT healthy.

So What Is Processed Meat? And What Is Healthy Meat?

The best rule of thumb is that red/white meat from healthy animals is healthy and processed meats are not.

Define red meat?. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, goat, duck and venison. If the animals are healthy and the meat is cooked with out burning it then this is healthy food for the body

Define Processed meat?. Processed meat is meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives. Examples include ham, bacon, pastrami and salami, as well as hot dogs and some sausages. Hamburgers and minced meats only count as processed meat if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives. The classification given to processed meat - ''carcinogenic to humans'' - is the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.

Setting The Record Straight

It is true that processed meat is associated with an increased risk of cancer, especially colon cancer. However it is very important this should not be interpreted as "Red Meat Is Bad". Two review studies, one that looked at data from 35 studies and the other from 25 studies, found that the effect for unprocessed red meat was very weak for men and nonexistent for women (1, 2).

However… it does appear that the way meat is cooked can have a major effect on its health effects. Several studies show that when meat is overcooked, it can form compounds like Heterocyclic Amines and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, which have been shown to cause cancer in test animals (3).

There are several ways to prevent this from happening… such as choosing gentler cooking methods and always cutting away burned or charred pieces. So the answer is not to avoid red meat, but to make sure not to burn it. Keep in mind that overheating can cause harmful compounds to form in many other foods. This is NOT exclusive to meat.

Bottom Line:

The link between unprocessed red meat and cancer is very weak in men and nonexistent in women. This may depend on the way meat is cooked, because overheating can form carcinogens. Also Red meat in Ireland NOT EQUAL to red meat in USA as the beef in the USA is generally factory farmed and rared in feedlots on grain and can be injected with GM hormones that are shown to produce increased cancer in the animal. Where as Irish beef and most other animal produce is generally grass fed, outdoors and not injected with dangerous, cancer causing chemicals

Tips On Choosing Healthy Meats:
  • Always read ingredient labels on meat products. Don’t buy anything containing sodium nitrite/nitrate or potassium nitrite/nitrate
  • Consume meats as rare as possible and never burn them. The longer the cooking time and the higher the heat, the more HCAs, so cook your meat at the lowest temperature, and for the shortest time, possible
  • Boil meat as a matter of preference
  • Only consume meats from healthy animals, fed on their normal diet
  • Cooking meat with an antioxidant-rich herb and spice mix could reduce compounds that have been linked to cancer.
  • Marinating meat in traditional marinades including olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice have also been shown to cut down on carcinogenic cooking byproducts
  • Also effective are spice rubs (garlic, oregano, cinnamon, rosemary, black pepper, turmeric, and onions) and even fruit (such as cherries), which can be added into ground meats like burgers
  • White meats such as chicken and fish are also healthy but apply the above rules aswell
  • And finally, eat more fresh produce such as salads with every meal

In Health,Gabriel


1)Red meat and colorectal cancer: a critical summary of prospective epidemiologic studies.

2)Meta-analysis of prospective studies of red meat consumption and colorectal cancer.

3)Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk

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