Meat Consumption and Colorectal Cancer: Research Confirms “Convincing” Connection

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

The link between red and processed meat to colorectal cancer was reconfirmed in a 2014 review of research conducted by the National Cancer Institute. The findings were “convincing,” said the investigators of the studies they analyzed, which included a major 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research. In the new report, the relationship between meat consumption and other cancers were said to be not as clear.

 My Viewpoint: Some years ago I read about a Japanese-American gastroenterologist who had examined the colons of 300,000 patients and found that meat consumption generated putrid contents in the bowels. As a cardiologist, I have long been aware of research linking a meat-heavy diet to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, as summarized in a 2012 report.

 What This Means To You: Too many people overdo it with red meat (beef, pork, and lamb), eating one or even two servings a day. That’s too much. Medical researchers think the cancer problem with meat consumption relates to certain potential carcinogens present in the meat or created by high temperature cooking. Moreover, meats are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats.

 My Recommendation: Less is more when it comes to meat. Eat red meat no more than two or three times a week, and if possible make it organic and grass-fed. Specifically, experts say, limit red meat consumption to 18 ounces per week. Every 1.7 ounces above that amount eaten per day increases cancer risk by 15 percent. Avoid processed meats like bacon, ham, luncheon meat and hot dogs as researchers believe there is no completely safe level of consumption, and say that every 1.7 ounce eaten a day increases cancer risk by 21 percent.

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