By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Researchers continue to find an association between red meat consumption and breast cancer. Red meats refer to beef, lamb, and pork – meats that are dark in color when raw. A 2014 Harvard study monitoring more than 44,000 women over 13 years found that higher adolescent consumption of red meat was significantly associated with premenopausal breast cancer risk. Replacing one serving a day of red meat with a serving of poultry, fish, legumes, or nuts was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of breast cancer overall and a 23 percent lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer.
A 2015 European study looked at broad dietary patterns and found that adherence to a more plant-based diet that limits red meat intake will more likely reduce the risk of breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women.
My Viewpoint: Over the years, researchers have repeatedly found a troubling red meat-cancer connection. It is believed to be linked to meat byproducts generated by high temperature cooking, as well as the hormones and antibiotics used in conventional livestock practices, and food preservatives present in processed meats.
What This Means to You: If you have a family history of breast cancer, you need to raise your health awareness and address common risk factors. That requires a number of lifestyle changes, including drinking less alcohol, eating less sugar, engaging in regular physical activity and other stress-reduction techniques, as well as modifying your diet.
Recommendation: Reduce your red meat consumption. Instead of once or twice a day, opt for once or twice a week, choosing organic or grass-fed when possible. Eliminate processed meats altogether. I highly recommend my anti-inflammatory Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean Diet, full of fruit and vegetable options and healthy alternatives to red meat like poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts as protein sources. And be sure to supplement with CoQ10, an important antioxidant nutrient with anti-cancer properties that is found in meat but not in plant food.
- Farvid M, et al. Adolescent meat intake and breast cancer risk. Int J Cancer. Oct 2014. Published online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.29218/abstract
- Catsburg C, et al. Dietary patters and breast cancer risk: a study in 2 cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr. Apr 2015. Published online at http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/02/11/ajcn.114.097659.abstract?sid=12a0a63e-c6f0-4da2-8b3d-df2abd6ddb79
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