A team of researchers have said people can continue to enjoy sausages, steak, and bacon, as they stated there is no proof processed and red meats can cause cancer.
In a move some have deemed as controversial, the researchers branded the evidence of red meat linked to serious health issues as weak, suggesting people should keep on enjoying the average of three to four portions of red and/or processed meat per week.
Their guidance contradicts the recommendations of health organizations such as the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which has urged people to completely avoid processed meat or consume very small amounts of it.
The WCRF brought together a group of organizations – among which were the World Health Organization – in order to fight back against the latest discoveries, noting that there is strong evidence of a link between processed and red meat and bowel cancer.
Currently, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) recommends that people who eat more than 90 grams of red or processed meat per day should try to reduce their intake to at least 70 grams.
However, in the latest study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of international experts said that those claims did not have good-quality evidence.
They came to similar conclusions as other researchers but noted that the findings were so weak they were not sufficient to warrant people being told to reduce their intake.
The team of 14 experts from seven countries, added that their analysis offered “most up-to-date evidence on the topic”.
Associate professor at Dalhousie University in CanadaStudy and author of the study Bradley Johnston said:
“We cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease.”
Mr. Johnston said the team found no real benefit from reducing intake below this level.
“From 12 randomised controlled trials enrolling about 54,000 individuals, we did not find a statistically significant or an important association in the risk of heart disease, cancer or diabetes for those that consumed less red or processed meat.”
And while there was some evidence for a small reduction in risk for people eating three fewer portions per week, “the certainty of evidence was low to very low,” he continued.
“Our bottom line recommendation – which is a weak recommendation based on low-quality evidence – is that for the majority of people, not everyone, continuing their red and processed meat consumption is the right approach.”
Director of research at the WCRF Dr. Giota Mitrou said the new interpretation of the research
“could be putting people at risk by suggesting they can eat as much red and processed meat as they like without increasing their risk of cancer.
However, this is not the case.
The message people need to hear is that we should be eating no more than three portions of red meat a week and avoiding processed meat altogether.
We stand by our rigorous research of the last 30 years and urge the public to follow the current recommendations on red and processed meat.”
Professor and deputy director of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, Tim Key, said the following:
“There’s substantial evidence that processed meat can cause bowel cancer – so much so that the World Health Organisation has classified it as carcinogenic since 2015.”
Today’s newest publication reports identical results to the existing evidence, but describes it differently, in effect contradicting the mainstream consensus among cancer research experts.
Another study funded by Cancer Research UK and led by Oxford University discovered that even small amounts of processed and red meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer.
In their estimations, eating three slices of bacon per day instead of one could potentially increase the risk of bowel cancer by 20%.
For every 10000 participants who ate 21 grams of red and processed meat per day (about a slice of bacon or ham), 40 were diagnosed with bowel cancer. In comparison, the number of people who ate 76 grams per day and were diagnosed with bowel cancer was 48.
Cancer Research UK shared that around 5400 of the 41804 bowel cancer cases reported each year in the United Kingdom could be prevented if people completely removed processed meat from their diets.
Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, Emma Shields, had this to say:
“Processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer – there’s a mass of evidence that shows this.”
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