A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that processed foods are cancer producing. The report also stated that to a lesser degree red meat is also cancer causing. Overall there are 34,000 people per year worldwide who die from cancers that are related to the consumption of processed foods. They are mainly colorectal cancers, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
Seeing deaths from processed meat in perspective
When you relate the 34,000 processed food related cancers to all of the 8.2 million cancer deaths per year worldwide, the cancer numbers related to processed food amount to only 0.41 % of all the cancer deaths in the world, which is a very small percentage. In comparison to these numbers smoking as a cause of cancer is responsible for the death of 1 million people per year. Furthermore, there are 600,000 deaths due to drinking alcohol, and 200,000 deaths due to breathing polluted air. Of course it has to be emphasized that it is important to avoid cancer causes wherever possible!
Nevertheless we are talking about preventative deaths and the public should be informed about what the risks are due to consuming processed meats, cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and breathing polluted air.
Pancreatic cancer study
A large multi-ethnic study analyzed data from 190,545 men and women at the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii. In an average follow-up time of 7 years there were 482 incidents of pancreatic cancer, and it became obvious that processed meats play a role in the increase of pancreatic cancer. After taking other risk factors into consideration like a positive family history, age, smoking and diabetes mellitus, those patients who consumed the largest amount of processed meats had a 67% increased risk for pancreatic cancer as opposed to those who had the lowest intake of these foods. A diet rich in red meats increased the pancreatic cancer risk by about 50%.
Poultry, fish, dairy products and egg intake showed no pancreatic cancer risk factor, nor did it matter how much fat, saturated fat or cholesterol was consumed over the 7 year observation period.
The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Ute Noethlings, observed that the risk increase is a consequence of meat processing. The main culprit would very likely be carcinogenic substances which are used in processed meat production.
Too much red meat
Grain fed or corn fed and antibiotic treated regular beef changes the gut bacteria and can cause superbugs. The change of the gut flora can lead to inflammation in the gut lining and a condition called “leaky gut syndrome”. We carry almost 2 pounds of gut bacteria in us at any given time. Residual antibiotics from regular beef and chicken reduce that amount and change the composition of our gut flora.
The changes taking place from consuming regular beef changes your liver metabolism and leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries, which in turn causes deadly heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, grass fed beef or organic beef do not have the same effect. To prevent leaky gut syndrome, heart attacks and strokes from developing you can also take probiotics every day, which should include these two species: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus. This keeps your gut flora stable and does not allow your food to undermine your health. But this does not mean that you pop a supplement, and you can blissfully ignore sensible nutrition!
Red meat can cause heart attacks in diabetics
Red meat is one of the sources of protein, but doctors from the Harvard School of Public Health reported in the January edition of Diabetes Care, that a type 2 diabetes diet should go easy on red meat.
Type 2 diabetics are at risk for subsequent coronary heart disease (CHD), and intake of iron rich food was significantly associated with a greater risk of fatal CHD. The results come from a prospective study of 6,161 women from the Nurses’ Health Study.
All of these patients reported a diagnosis of adult onset diabetes, and they were followed between 1980 through 2000, which amounts to an impressive 54,455 person-years follow-up. Attention was paid to the food questionnaires, which were monitored for the consumption of iron and red meat such as beef, pork or lamb as a main dish, also for the use of beef in roast beef sandwiches and mixed dishes, hamburger, hot dog, processed meat and bacon. Note was also taken of other nutrients such as seafood and poultry.
Women with diabetes who ate the most iron in the form of heme found in red meats had a 50% increased risk of total coronary heart disease as compared to those with the lowest intake. The risk ratio with women was more obvious for postmenopausal women when compared with premenopausal women .
While lean beef may be a good protein food to the average population, type 2 diabetics might choose to cut back on red meat and processed red meat sources and replace it with a heart-friendlier choice. Fresh seafood, rich in omega -3 fatty acids, would rank high on the list of a healthy eating plan.
Another prospective study of 72,113 women over 18 years found a definitive relationship between dietary patterns and cancer and heart attacks. A prudent diet with high intakes of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains had a very low cancer and heart attack rate. Conversely a Western diet consisting of high intakes of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, French fries, and sweets/desserts led to a higher cardiovascular mortality risk of 22% and a higher cancer mortality risk of 16%.
Although the World Health Organization has now announced that processed food is carcinogenic, this piece of news is not entirely new. Hopefully it will work its way into the consciousness of the population at large. Meat processors producing sausages, ham and other processed meat varieties will not stop advertising their products in a way to make them sound tasty and delicious for the consumer. Colorful images are geared to make the prospective buyer drool, but this is a make-believe world in the art of commercials. In the end it is the consumer who has to make a decision which food is tasty and also beneficial. Only when the customer makes the choice for health and stops buying foods that border to being nutritionally hazardous products, we will see a true change in health statistics. But while you are thinking about changes, do not forget to quit smoking, cut down your alcohol consumption and perhaps, if possible move to a less polluted area. All of that will help to reduce mortality rates!
More info about pancreatic cancer: Causes of cancer of the pancreas.