According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, processed meats – such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages and ham – do cause cancer.
The WHO’s report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.
Meanwhile, the health agency said red meats were “probably carcinogenic” but there was limited evidence.
The WHO did stress that meat also had health benefits.
Processed meat is meat that has been modified to increase its shelf-life or alter its taste – such as by smoking, curing or adding salt or preservatives.
It is these additions which could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking, such as on a barbeque, can also create carcinogenic chemicals.
The WHO has come to the conclusion on the advice of its International Agency for Research on Cancer, which assesses the best available scientific evidence.
The International Agency for Research has now placed processed meat in the same category as plutonium, but also alcohol as they definitely do cause cancer.
However, this does not mean they are equally dangerous. A bacon sandwich is not as bad as smoking.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal [bowel] cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr. Kurt Straif from the WHO said.
Estimates suggest 34,000 deaths from cancer every year could be down to diets high in processed meat.
That is in contrast to one million deaths from cancer caused by smoking and 600,000 attributed to alcohol each year.
Red meat does have nutritional value too and is a major source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
However, the WHO said there was limited evidence that 100g of red meat a day increased the risk of cancer by 17%.
The WHO said its findings were important for helping countries give balanced dietary advice.
According to a recent research, eating too much red meat could trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists found that a build-up of iron – abundant in red meat – could cause oxidant damage, to which the brain is particularly vulnerable.
Researchers say this could in turn increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Prof. George Bartzokis of UCLA said that more studies have suggested the disease is caused by one of two proteins, one called tau, the other beta-amyloid.
As we age, most scientists say, these proteins either disrupt signaling between neurons or simply kill them.
He and colleagues looked at two areas of the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s and they compared the hippocampus, which is known to be damaged early in the disease, and the thalamus, an area that is generally not affected until the late stages.
Using brain-imaging techniques, they found that iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in that area. But increased iron was not found in the thalamus.
Prof. George Bartzokis said that most research had focused on the buildup of the proteins tau or beta-amyloid that cause the plaques associated with the disease.
Eating too much red meat could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s
But he believes the breakdown occurs further “upstream”, and it is the protein’s destruction of myelin, the fatty tissue which enables nerve signals to be sent along fibres, which disrupts communication and promotes the build-up of the plaques.
These amyloid plaques in turn destroy more and more myelin, disrupting brain signaling and leading to cell death and the classic clinical signs of Alzheimer’s.
He points out that myelin is produced by cells called oligodendrocytes.
These cells, along with myelin itself, have the highest levels of iron of any cells in the brain, George Bartzokis says.
He adds that although iron is essential for cell function, too much of it can promote oxidative damage, to which the brain is especially vulnerable.
Hypothesizing that elevated iron in the tissues could cause tissue breakdown, he targeted the vulnerable hippocampus, a key area of the brain involved in the formation of memories, and compared it to the thalamus, which is relatively spared by Alzheimer’s until the very late stages of disease.
They found increased iron levels in patients with Alzheimer’s.
Prof. George Bartzokis said: “It is difficult to measure iron in tissue when the tissue is already damaged.”
But the MRI technology we used in this study allowed us to determine that the increase in iron is occurring together with the tissue damage.
“We found that the amount of iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in patients with Alzheimer’s but not in the healthy older individuals – or in the thalamus.
“So the results suggest that iron accumulation may indeed contribute to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.”
The link to iron could mean that dietary changes and surgical interventions could lower the chances of the developing the disease, he said.
He explained: “The accumulation of iron in the brain may be influenced by modifying environmental factors, such as how much red meat and iron dietary supplements we consume and, in women, having hysterectomies before menopause.”
Prof. George Bartzokis said drugs are already being developed to remove iron from tissue and the new study may allow doctors to determine who is most in need of such treatments.
US scientists say carnitine, a chemical found in red meat, helps explain why eating too much steak, mince and bacon is bad for the heart.
Their work has been published in the journal Nature Medicine and showed that carnitine in red meat was broken down by bacteria in the gut.
This kicked off a chain of events which resulted in higher levels of cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease.
Dieticians also warned there may be a risk to people taking carnitine supplements.
US scientists say carnitine, a chemical found in red meat, helps explain why eating too much steak, mince and bacon is bad for the heart
There has been a wealth of studies suggesting that regularly eating red meat may be damaging to health.
Saturated fat and the way processed meat is preserved are thought to contribute to heart problems. However, this was not thought to be the whole story.
“The cholesterol and saturated fat content of lean red meat is not that high, there’s something else contributing to increases in cardiovascular risk,” said lead researcher Dr. Stanley Hazen.
Experiments on mice and people showed that bacteria in the gut could eat carnitine.
Carnitine was broken down into a gas, which was converted in the liver to a chemical called TMAO.
In the study, TMAO was strongly linked with the build-up of fatty deposits in blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease and death.
Dr. Stanley Hazen, from the Cleveland Clinic, said TMAO was often ignored: “It may be a waste product but it is significantly influencing cholesterol metabolism and the net effect leads to an accumulation of cholesterol.
“The findings support the idea that less red meat is better.
“I used to have red meat five days out of seven, now I have cut it way back to less than once every two weeks or so.”
He said the findings raised the idea of using a probiotic yogurt to change the balance of bacteria in the gut.
Reducing the number of bacteria that feed on carnitine would in theory reduce the health risks of red meat.
Vegetarians naturally have fewer bacteria that are able to break down carnitine than meat-eaters.
A couple of hamburgers a week could increase the chances of getting prostate cancer by 40%, according to new a research.
Scientists say cooking meat at a high temperatures creates cancer causing chemicals that damage DNA.
A study of almost 2,000 men found prostate cancer cases rose dramatically in those who often ate meat cooked in a pan, with red meat being particularly dangerous.
Professor Mariana Stern, of the University of Southern California, said: “We found men who ate more than 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat per week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30%.
“In addition, men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40% more likely to have advanced prostate cancer.”
A study of almost 2,000 men found prostate cancer cases rose dramatically in those who often ate meat cooked in a pan, with red meat being particularly dangerous
The carcinogens at the centre of the scare are known as HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
HCAs form when protein is cooked at high temperatures for a long time, while PAHs occur when fat from the meat drips onto an open flame creating smoke that deposits the chemicals on the meat.
There is strong experimental evidence that HCAs and PAHs contribute to certain cancers, including prostate cancer.
When considering specific types of red meats hamburgers, but not steak, were linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, especially among Hispanic men.
Prof. Mariana Stern, whose research was published in the online journal Carcinogenisis, said: “We speculate these findings are a result of different levels of carcinogen accumulation found in hamburgers, given that they can attain higher internal and external temperatures faster than steak.”
The participants, more than 1,000 of whom had advanced prostate cancer, answered questionnaires about their red meat and poultry consumption. They were also asked to photograph their cooking methods and how charred their meat was.
The researchers said the study, published online in the journal Carcinogenesis, provides important new evidence on how red meat and its cooking practices may increase the risk for prostate cancer.
Previous studies have emphasized an association between diets high in red meat and risk of prostate cancer, but proof is limited.
But attention to cooking methods shows the disease may be a result of potent chemical carcinogens formed when meat is cooked at a high temperature.
The researchers also found the men who ate baked poultry had a lower risk of prostate cancer, but those who pan fried it had a higher risk.
Prof. Mariana Stern said pan-frying, regardless of meat type, consistently led to an increased risk of prostate cancer. The same pattern was evident in her previous research which found fish cooked at high temperatures, particularly pan-fried, increased the risk of prostate cancer.
The researchers do not know why pan-frying poses a higher risk for prostate cancer, but they suspect it is due to the formation of the DNA-damaging HCAs during the cooking of red meat and poultry.
She added: “The observations from this study alone are not enough to make any health recommendations but given the few modifiable risk factors known for prostate cancer, the understanding of dietary factors and cooking methods are of high public health relevance.”
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that a diet high in red meat can shorten life expectancy.
The study of more than 120,000 people suggested red meat increased the risk of death from cancer and heart problems.
Substituting red meat with fish, chicken or nuts lowered the risks, the authors said.
According to The British Heart Foundation, red meat could still be eaten as part of a balanced diet.
The researchers analyzed data from 37,698 men between 1986 and 2008 and 83,644 women between 1980 and 2008.
The researchers said adding an extra portion of unprocessed red meat to someone’s daily diet would increase the risk of death by 13%, of fatal cardiovascular disease by 18% and of cancer mortality by 10%.
The figures for processed meat were higher, 20% for overall mortality, 21% for death from heart problems and 16% for cancer mortality.
The study of more than 120,000 people suggested red meat increased the risk of death from cancer and heart problems
The study said: “We found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.
“This association was observed for unprocessed and processed red meat with a relatively greater risk for processed red meat.”
The researchers suggested that saturated fat from red meat may be behind the increased heart risk and the sodium used in processed meats may “increase cardiovascular disease risk through its effect on blood pressure”.
Victoria Taylor, a dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Red meat can still be eaten as part of a balanced diet, but go for the leaner cuts and use healthier cooking methods such as grilling.
“If you eat processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages or burgers several times a week, add variation to your diet by substituting these for other protein sources such as fish, poultry, beans or lentils.”
John Nicholson’s book “The Meat Fix. How a lifetime of healthy eating nearly killed me!”presents author’ story of how eating meat again, after twenty-six vegetarian years, changed his life powerfully for the better, and of his quest to understand why the supposedly healthy diet he had existed on was actually damaging him.
The reformed vegan John Nicholson has gorged on all the foods his granny enjoyed… and has never felt better.
“As the kitchen filled with the smell of caramelized meat, my mouth watered in anticipation of the coming feast: a thick cut of tender steak, fried in butter and olive oil.
This was not a regular treat. In fact, for the previous 26 years I’d been a vegan, eschewing not just meat but all animal products.
My diet was an extreme version of the NHS Eat Well regime, which recommends lots of starchy foods and smaller quantities of saturated fats, cholesterol, sugar and red meat.
According to government advice, I was doing everything right – and yet my health had never been worse. My weight had crept up over the years, until in 2008 I was 14½ stone – which is a lot of blubber for someone who is 5ft 10in – and was classified as clinically obese.
I waddled around, sweating and short of breath, battling extremely high cholesterol and suffering from chronic indigestion. I was always tired and needed to take naps every afternoon. I had constant headaches and swallowed paracetamol and sucked Rennies like they were sweets.
Worst of all, I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which left me feeling as if I had lead weights in my gut. My belly was bloated and distended after every meal. I was, to use a technical term, knackered.”
John Nicholson’s book presents the story of how eating meat again, after twenty-six vegetarian years, changed his life powerfully for the better
“But that was about to change. In 2010, I decided to give up my supposedly healthy lifestyle and embrace good old-fashioned meat.
From that day on, I ate red meat four or five days a week. I gobbled the fat on chops, chicken skin and pork crackling. I feasted on everything we’re told to avoid. The effects were instant.
Twenty-four hours after eating meat again, all my IBS symptoms had gone. As the weeks and months passed, every aspect of my health improved dramatically. I became leaner, shedding body fat and becoming stronger and fitter. My headaches went away, never to return. Even my libido increased.
It felt like being young again, like coming back to life. But though I felt energized, I was also furious.
Furious with myself for sticking to the “healthy” eating advice, which was actually far from a sensible diet. But also furious with the so-called experts who have been peddling this low-fat, high-carbohydrate claptrap for so long that no one thinks to question it.
My maternal grandmother would certainly have challenged it. Like my grandfather, she was born into a poor family in East Yorkshire at the turn of the century and their eating regime was simple: meat and at least two vegetables at every meal, lots of butter and full-cream milk (they would have scorned yogurt as little more than “off” milk), bread, potatoes, cake and puddings.
Nothing would have swayed them from that lifestyle. Had a low-fat diet been suggested by a doctor, Gran would have told him to his face that it was all rubbish and that you needed fat to “keep the cold out”.
If she could have seen people buying skimmed milk today, she would have thought they had lost their minds. Getting rid of the best bit of milk? Lunacy.
Late in her life, I recall her scorning the advice on limiting the consumption of eggs because of concerns about cholesterol. On one occasion, she watched in astonishment as a celebrity TV chef made an egg-white omelette. “He’s a bloody fool, that man,” she said.
She was right to be skeptical, it turns out. For years the authorities told us cholesterol-rich foods would kill us – but we’ve since learned that is utter drivel.”
John Nicholson was fat and ill as a vegan
“While Ancel Keys, the scientist whose research in the Fifties first raised concerns about cholesterol levels, suggested that heart disease was linked to large amounts of cholesterol in the blood, he never claimed those levels were linked to the amount of cholesterol we eat.
“There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood,” he said in a magazine article in 1997. “And we’ve known that all along.”
Since then, the NHS’s paranoia about cholesterol in food has been replaced by concerns about saturated fat – found in everything from butter, cheese and cream to pies, cakes and biscuits.
They suggest saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. But this is open to debate.
France has the lowest rate of death from coronary heart disease in Europe, yet the country has the highest consumption of saturated fats.
Gran survived into her 80’s and Grandad into his 70’s, despite laboring down the pit his whole working life. Did they achieve this by gobbling low-fat spreads, soya oil or skimmed milk? No, they lived on old-fashioned foods such as butter, lard and beef fat. Indeed, a growing body of opinion suggests that the factory-made products that have replaced these staples – vegetable oils, polyunsaturated margarine and spreads – are the real cause of the degenerative diseases that are so common today.”
John Nicholson is leaner and healthier after he changed his diet as a meat eater
“Findings by the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit-making research organization in America, show most cases of heart attack in the 20th century were of a hitherto little-known form known as myocardial infarction (MI) – a huge blood clot leading to the obstruction of a coronary artery.
MI was almost non-existent in the U.S. in 1910 and was causing no more than 3,000 deaths a year by 1930. However, by 1960, there were at least 500,000 MI deaths a year across the country.
It surely can’t be a coincidence that this happened as the U.S. embraced a new diet based on increasingly large portions of highly processed foods and vegetable oils?
Similar changes in the national diet took place in Britain during the early years of my life and I can’t help wondering whether my father might still be alive today if it had not been for this shift.
I grew up in the North-East during the Sixties and had no idea about “healthy eating”. Those few people who did fret about their diet were thought of as fussy.
No one thought food was a problem, unless the chip shop ran out of battered sausage on a Friday. We ate suet puddings every week, our bacon and eggs were fried in lard, milk was full-fat – I’m not sure skimmed milk even existed in the Sixties – and we ate eggs every day.
Then, in the Seventies, things changed. We got wealthier and food became cheaper. Mam began buying more cakes and confectionery instead of home-baking. We ate more shop-bought food in general.
She also stopped using lard in the chip pan, opting for Spry Crisp ’n Dry instead. Gran wasn’t pleased. She thought vegetable oil was a new-fangled fad – it was, and that was precisely why Mam liked it. She saw it as moving on, modern and fashionable.
Dad never did any exercise and drove everywhere in his newly acquired company car.
More processed food, margarine, sugar and vegetable oil, combined with days spent behind a desk and a wheel, saw him gain a sizeable belly and the apple shape so common today. In 1987, he died of a massive heart attack, aged just 65.
His diet in his later years was not one that would have appealed to Gran. She was vehemently against margarine.
“I’m not eating anything made in a factory,” she’d say. “You don’t know what they put in it.”
It was a fear shared by many of her era. Had I heeded such warnings, I would have avoided my battle with processed food, in the form of soya, the bean whose industrially produced extracts are marketed as a low-fat and exceptionally healthy source of protein.
Today, soya is everywhere. About two-thirds of all processed food in the U.S. contains some form of it. That percentage will not be much different here – you’d be amazed at how often you eat ‘hidden’ soya.
When my partner, Dawn, and I decided to become vegan during the Eighties, it was still rare in Britain. This lifestyle shift came about shortly after we’d left Newcastle Polytechnic and moved to live self-sufficiently in a rented cottage in northern Scotland.
When one of our chickens became ill, we found it terribly difficult to put it out of its misery and began to doubt whether killing – or eating – animals was for us.
We didn’t see why someone else should have to do our dirty work for us, so in January 1984 we ate our last bacon sandwiches and embarked on our dramatic lifestyle change.
At about this time, governments in the U.S. and Europe were recommending that people cut down on eating animal fats, cholesterol and red meat in favor of more starchy foods, fruit and vegetables and wholegrains.
This new healthy eating advice had much in common with the vegetarian diet. We felt we were following a golden path, especially when we discovered the apparent wonders of soya.
Only later did we discover that research by the Weston A. Price Foundation had suggested that processed soya foods are rich in chemicals called trypsin inhibitors, which disrupt protein digestion. I believe it was these that created all my problems with IBS.
Soya has also been associated with hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, a condition whose symptoms include unexplained weight gain, lack of energy and depression – all problems that Dawn began to experience. These problems were exacerbated by other health problems caused by our diet.
As voracious consumers of nuts, pulses and wholegrains, our diet was very high in copper and, because of the lack of animal protein, low in zinc. Some researchers have linked this imbalance to constant feelings of fatigue, something with which Dawn and I were all too familiar.
For years, we gave the NHS every chance to find out what was wrong with us and get us well. But doctors didn’t and couldn’t – perhaps because they wouldn’t even consider that our apparently healthy diet might be the problem.
Finally, in desperation, Dawn suggested we should try eating meat again. At the same time, we cut out all vegetable oils, except olive oil, and ate lots of lard, beef dripping, butter, cream and full-fat milk.
We have also cut out starchy carbohydrates such as bread, which contains a component of starch that causes blood sugar levels to peak and trough, leading to a cycle of hunger and over-eating.
Admittedly, the absence of bread is one aspect of our new diet that might have caused Gran to ask if I had gone “soft in the head”. In her day, they needed lots of carbohydrates to fuel their physically demanding lives, but we are far more sedentary.
But I’m sure she would have approved of everything else about our new diet because her generation knew how to eat properly. That’s a skill we have forgotten, brain-washed as we are by government and medical propaganda.
It’s time we reminded ourselves of it, questioning the one-size-fits-all, “healthy” eating advice we’re spoon-fed and opting instead for wholesome, unprocessed, home-made food.”
Swedish researchers at Karolinska Institute suggest there is a link between eating processed meat, such as bacon or sausages, and pancreatic cancer.
Researchers said eating an extra 50g of processed meat, approximately one sausage, every day would increase a person’s risk by 19%.
But the chance of developing the rare cancer remains low.
The World Cancer Research Fund suggested the link may be down to obesity.
Eating red and processed meat has already been linked to bowel cancer. As a result the UK government recommended in 2011 that people eat no more than 70g a day.
Prof. Susanna Larsson, who conducted the study at the Karolinska Institute, said that links to other cancers were “quite controversial”.
She added: “It is known that eating meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, it’s not so much known about other cancers.”
Swedish researchers at Karolinska Institute suggest there is a link between eating processed meat, such as bacon or sausages, and pancreatic cancer
The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, analyzed data from 11 trials and 6,643 patients with pancreatic cancer.
It found that eating processed meat increased the risk of pancreatic cancer. The risk increased by 19% for every 50g someone added to their daily diet. Having an extra 100g would increase the risk by 38%.
Prof. Susanna Larsson said: “Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates. So as well as diagnosing it early, it’s important to understand what can increase the risk of this disease.”
She recommended that people eat less red meat.
Cancer Research UK said the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in a lifetime was “comparatively small” – one in 77 for men and one in 79 for women.
Sara Hiom, the charity’s information director, said: “The jury is still out as to whether meat is a definite risk factor for pancreatic cancer and more large studies are needed to confirm this, but this new analysis suggests processed meat may be playing a role.”
However, she pointed out that smoking was a much greater risk factor.
The World Cancer Research Fund has advised people to completely avoid processed meat.
Dr. Rachel Thompson, the fund’s deputy head of science, said: “We will be re-examining the factors behind pancreatic cancer later this year as part of our Continuous Update Project, which should tell us more about the relationship between cancer of the pancreas and processed meat.
“There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of pancreatic cancer and this study may be an early indication of another factor behind the disease.
“Regardless of this latest research, we have already established a strong link between eating red and processed meat and your chances of developing bowel cancer, which is why WCRF recommends limiting intake of red meat to 500g cooked weight a week and avoid processed meat altogether.”