Red Meat & Cancer—Again! Will It Ever Stop?
ADAPT Health Coach Training Program Enrollment is now open. Learn more

Red Meat & Cancer—Again! Will It Ever Stop?

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

istock.com/LauriPatterson

The media and blogosphere are abuzz with the latest report from the WHO, which classified cured and processed meats as carcinogens and put them in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic, and tobacco. But what does the research really tell us about the link between red meat and cancer?

Well, here we go again. Each year, like clockwork, the conventional medical establishment mounts an attack against red meat.

For decades, we were told not to eat it because of the cholesterol and saturated fat it contains. When that argument became less convincing, a new one was offered: we shouldn’t eat red meat because it increases production of a compound called TMAO, which causes heart attacks.

Now we’re being told not to eat red meat—and especially cured and processed meat—because it will give us cancer. In a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked bacon, sausage, and other cured and processed meats as “group 1 carcinogens,” which puts them in the same category as tobacco, asbestos, alcohol, and arsenic. It also placed fresh red meat in the “group 2A” category, which suggests that it is “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

Of course, this isn’t a new argument; it’s been around for at least 40 years. As far back as 1975, scientists speculated that the consumption of animal products was linked to cancer. (1)

How strong is the evidence linking red meat to cancer?

However, the evidence supporting this claim has never been as strong as its proponents suggest. I have critically reviewed this evidence on several occasions in the past, as have many of my colleagues. Here’s a list of a few articles and podcasts I recommend reading and/or listening to if you’d like to go deep on this topic:

I realize that many of you don’t have the time to sift through all of that material, so I’ll do my best to summarize the salient points here.

Is eating bacon the same as smoking cigarettes when it comes to cancer?

Let’s start with a critical review of the evidence linking red meat to cancer that was published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world (Obesity Reviews) in 2010. (2) The authors looked at 35 studies that claimed to find an association between red meat and cancer and found numerous problems. Here are some key passages from this paper, with my commentary.

Collectively, associations between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer are generally weak in magnitude, with most relative risks below 1.50 and not statistically significant, and there is a lack of a clear dose–response trend.

Translation: the association between red meat and cancer is not strong (i.e. comparing bacon to cigarettes is absurd), and in fact is often not distinguishable from chance. If red meat really did cause cancer, you’d expect to see a linear (continuous) increase in cancer rates as red meat consumption increased. But that’s not what we see in many cases. In fact, in some studies you actually see a decrease in cancer rates in the people who ate the most red meat. (3)

Results are variable by anatomic tumour site (colon vs. rectum) and by gender, as the epidemiologic data are not indicative of a positive association among women while most associations are weakly elevated among men.

Translation: the studies claim that red meat causes different rates of cancer in different parts of the intestinal tract, and different rates in men and women. For example, in the study I just referenced above (#3), there was an inverse relationship between red meat intake and colon cancer (meaning people who ate more red meat had less colon cancer), but a positive relationship between red meat and rectal cancer. And in an analysis of data from the Women’s Health Study, researchers found a strong (and linear) inverse relationship between red meat consumption and colon cancer. (4) Without a clear explanation of why red meat would be prevent some types of intestinal cancer while contributing to others, and have different effects in men and women, the likelihood of a causal relationship between red meat and cancer is reduced.

Colinearity between red meat intake and other dietary factors (e.g. Western lifestyle, high intake of refined sugars and alcohol, low intake of fruits, vegetables and fibre) and behavioural factors (e.g. low physical activity, high smoking prevalence, high body mass index) limit the ability to analytically isolate the independent effects of red meat consumption.

Translation: the studies linking red meat and cancer are plagued by “healthy user bias.” This is a fancy way of saying that people who engage in one behavior perceived as healthy are likely to engage in other behaviors they perceive to be healthy. On the flip side, people who engage in one behavior perceived to be unhealthy are likely to engage in other behaviors perceived to be unhealthy.

In an ideal world, we would be able to conduct a randomized, controlled trial to determine whether red meat causes cancer. We’d create two groups of people that are relatively similar in age and other characteristics. Then we’d isolate them in a medical ward, strictly control their diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors, and then feed one group more red meat and the other group less.

Unfortunately, this will never happen. Cancer can take decades to develop, so these poor souls would be living in a ward for at least 20 years. Even if we could find people to volunteer for such a study, it would be astronomically (and prohibitively) expensive.

As a result, we’re left to rely on observational studies to shed light on the question of whether red meat causes cancer. The problem with this is that observational studies do not prove causality—they just demonstrate an association, or relationship, between different variables. Sometimes the association is causal, and sometimes it’s not.

Let’s consider red meat. Regardless of whether consuming fresh and/or processed red meat is unhealthy, it has certainly been perceived that way for the past half-century in the industrialized world. What this means is that people in observational studies that eat more red meat also have a tendency to smoke and drink more, eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise less, and engage in other unhealthy behaviors that could influence cancer risk. This isn’t just speculation; it has been shown in numerous studies. (4, 5)

For example, most Americans that eat red meat eat it with a huge bun made of white flour, with a serving or more of other refined carbohydrates (chips, fries, soda) cooked in rancid, industrially processed vegetable or seed oils. How do we know that it’s the red meat—and not these other foods—that is causing the increase in cancer?

The better observational studies attempt to eliminate the influence of these other factors, but in practice that is difficult if not impossible.

You can’t see what you’re not looking for

What’s more, there are certain factors that are likely to play a significant role in the relationship between any food that we eat and cancer, but to my knowledge, have never been adequately controlled for in any study.

One of these is the gut microbiome. Previous work has shown that the composition of the gut microbiota may directly affect the influence of dietary factors on cancer risk. (6)

For example, Streptococcus bovis, Bacteroides, Fusobacterium, Clostridia, and Helicobacter pylori have been implicated in tumor development, whereas Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. plantarum, and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to inhibit colon carcinogenesis. (7) Other studies have found that certain species of bacteria were higher in populations with high colon cancer risk, while other species were higher in populations with low colon cancer risk. (8) Finally, a recent paper compared the gut microbiota of 60 patients with colorectal cancer with that of 119 normal controls. The patients with cancer had significant elevations of Bacteroides/Prevotella (both species that are recognized as potentially harmful) when compared to the control group, and the difference was not affected by general patient characteristics (e.g., age, body mass index, family history of cancer), tumor size or location, or disease stage. (9)

We still have a lot to learn about the influence of the microbiome on health and disease, but we know enough already to conclude that it is significant. It is possible—and I would argue likely—then, that the variability we see in studies showing an association between red meat consumption and cancer may be in part due to the status of the patient’s microbiome.

In other words, a patient with a dysbiotic (i.e., compromised) microbiome may be at increased risk for cancer if he or she consumes high amounts of either fresh or processed red meat. But a patient with a normal, healthy microbiome may not be.

There is, in fact, some research that hints at this possibility—though it wasn’t what the study authors intended. A couple of years ago, scientists from the Cleveland Clinic published a paper linking red meat consumption with the production of a compound called TMAO, which has been associated with cardiovascular disease.

That paper was riddled with problems (which I outlined in this critique), including the most glaring one—that several foods, including seafood, increase TMAO production by a much greater margin than red meat. However, there was one section of the paper that I found to be very interesting.

It showed that omnivores who eat red meat produce TMAO, whereas vegans and vegetarians who hadn’t eaten meat for at least a year do not. The researchers claimed that this means eating red meat must alter the gut flora in a way that predisposes toward TMAO production.

However, there’s another explanation that I believe is much more plausible: the red meat eaters are engaging in unhealthy behaviors that lead to gut dysbiosis. This could include eating fewer fruits and vegetables and less fermentable fiber, while eating more processed and refined flour, sugar, and seed oils. All of these behaviors have been shown to be more common in the “average” red meat eater, and all of them have been associated with undesirable changes in the gut microbiota. (10, 11, 12)

Apples and oranges (or, Paleo vs. Standard American Diet)

Observational studies are useful for generating hypotheses and identifying general trends. But another limitation they suffer from, in addition to those I’ve described above, is that they aren’t able to detect the effects of crucial differences between study participants.

Consider two different people. One follows a standard American diet, doesn’t exercise much, and has a compromised gut microbiome. The other follows a Paleo-type diet, exercises regularly, and has a healthy gut microbiome. In an observational study looking at the relationship between red meat and cancer, at least 95 percent (if not more) of the red meat eaters in typical studies will fall into the former category. If the study concludes that there is a link between red meat and cancer, the 5 percent of the participants that eat a healthy diet, exercise, and have a healthy gut—and are thus highly unlikely to experience the same impact from eating red meat—will be lumped together with the other 95 percent.

Put a different way, it should be fairly obvious, given what we already know about the influence of diet, lifestyle, and the microbiome on cancer risk, that someone following a Paleo-type diet and lifestyle will not share the same cancer risk as someone following a Standard American Diet and lifestyle, even if they are eating an equivalent amount of red meat. Yet these two groups of people are always lumped together in the studies and media reports. This is a huge problem in research, and it has not been adequately addressed.

What’s the bottom line?

Even if you ignore everything I’ve written in this article and accept the WHO report at face value, just how much would your risk of cancer increase if you eat cured and processed meats?

About three extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults. That means you have about a 1 in 33,000 chance of developing bowel cancer from eating cured and processed meats.

This is a far cry from how much smoking cigarettes, which the WHO now classifies in the same category as eating bacon and salami, increases your risk.

As Professor Ian Johnson of The Institute of Food Research said in an interview with The Guardian:

It is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco smoke, which is loaded with known chemical carcinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers by around twentyfold.

What’s more, the report from the WHO classified 940 other agents, along with red meat, as potential carcinogens. In the Guardian article above, Betsy Booren, the vice-president of scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute, put it in perspective:

The IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air (class 1 carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (class 1), apply aloe vera (class 2B) if you get a sunburn, drink wine or coffee (class 1 and class 2B), or eat grilled food (class 2A). And if you are a hairdresser or do shift work (both class 2A), you should seek a new career.

At this point, given what the research indicates, I do not feel that modest consumption of cured or processed meat is likely to pose a significant health risk, provided you are doing other things right (i.e., nurturing your gut microbiome, eating nutrient-dense, real foods, exercising, etc.). I think there is even less evidence suggesting that we should limit consumption of fresh red meat, especially when it is cooked using gentle methods (rather than charring it) and when you eat “from nose to tail.”

Okay, that’s it for this year’s installment of “red meat won’t kill you.” See you next year!

264 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. This whole website is based on pseudo-science just like the whole Paleo diet is.
    Some of the healthiest societies in the world eat the most carbs and very little meat and dairy.

    • Like India? India has the highest rate of type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, top 5 for cancer and 61% of adult females have iron deficiency anemia, and because of diabetes rate, over 50% of type 2 diabetics will develop early dementia, and 70% will die of heart attack. 70% have a gene defect from too many generations of vegetarianism. This makes them produce high levels of arachidonic acid, the precursor of inflammation in your body. The healthiest culture on earth are Masai warriors of Kenya. THEY ONY EAT MEAT, MILK, AND BLOOD FROM A COW. No veggies or fruit.

        • Mark Littlewood- Why can’t both diets (Blue Zones, as well as Low Carbohydrate/ High Meat)- be effective? Just because one diet is successful, doesn’t automatically mean the other isn’t. These are all “real food”, native diets. Many different diets work for many different groups of people. And the problem with the Inuit studies you cited was that they were done too late; in this time period, they were no longer eating their native, mostly meat/seafood diet. Once they changed to modern foods, their health deteriorated. Also, I would like to mention that there were other very healthy, mostly carnivorous populations as well: the Plains Indians and the Mongolians, among others. This is not to say that the more plant based diets of the Mediterranean and “Blue Zones” are also not healthy. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation.

          • I dont rule that out but the problem for me is that in todays world plant based are doing very well and it is very difficult to dodge bad meat, the factory farmed antibiotic fueled immitation of anything the pop’s you describe would eat. The big problem I have is that when people get the message out that meat is OK the general population do not read the small print, they are just getting good news about their bad habits and think its a licence to continue eating highly factory farmed meats from the supermarket. The healthiest option for the general population from a budget and convenience point of view is whole food plant based

            • Isn’t eating GMO, pesticide-ridden, nutrient -deficient plants just as harmful as eating animals that ate GMO, pesticide-ridden, nutrient -deficient plants? If so, isn’t it just as dangerous for people to hear the message that “eating plants” is OK? How is it more difficult to dodge bad meat than bad plants? Isn’t it harder (not impossible) to get the nutrients you need from plants than from meat?

              Plant foods are cheaper, calorie for calorie, but does that mean they are cheaper based on total nutrients? I think your assumption that “plant based are doing very well” might need further inspection.

  2. Taken from your cited (3) paper defending red meat

    “Red meat intake was associated with increased risk of cancer of the rectum, with evidence of a dose–response relationship.”

  3. Do a little research on present Africa and you will find that their modern diet is about the same or worse than in the US with one exception, they consume little meat. However, colon cancer is just about non-existent.
    Forget all your research and find something in Africa that explains the low colon cancer if not the limited meat consumption because it is not more fiber or less processed foods than we consume in the US…

    • They also eat very little sugar, that’s another explanation
      You’re making the same mistake this article is pointing out.
      Saying red meat causes cancer because a group who avoid it don’t get cancer is not even close to a cause and effect. There is a million other factors involved.
      If this was the case why do vegans still get colon cancer / heart disease / diabetes, which are all supposed to be what red meat causes.

      People who eat red meat, eat breads, sugars and probably don’t work out much, as everyone thinks “red meat causes cancer ill stay away from that”, so the majority who eat it don’t give a fuck and probably do a lot of other damage to their bodies from other sources.

      The red meat thing has been going on for 60 years almost, and it initially started as a guess from little accurate research, but because your doctors, the government and the world has been spouting it as gospel ever since, no-one wants to admit the’re wrong now all this new research is coming out.

  4. 1 in 2 people in the uk will experience cancer at some point in their lives. Go figure! And McDonald and all the processed foods are aimed at children. Makes me sick.

  5. I have been training for close to 32 years i will be 45 in June, i recently stop the protein shakes and switch to a Intermittent fasting whole food diet, i never smoked or drank alcohol, i did eat junk and sugar food that i am cutting now.

    I recently added meat and eggs to my diet on a daily basis because they are the highest source of protein you can have and the Guru Vince Gironda was very fond of this too.

    Vince Gironda at the age of 46 did a 10 month of eating twice per day eggs and steak….. he looked amazing he did a carb up every 4 5 days and used is 8 x 8 program.

    There is a lot of propaganda with the vegans and meat i read a few books about the vegetarians and its like a religion.

    Meat is important for a man even more to keep high level of testosterone and have all the vitamins and mineral we need.

    I always buy low fat ground beef and steak sandwich those are fat free.

  6. Here’s a scientific paper from Meat Science journal, that not only explains why the studies that found red meat to be a cancer risk factor are questionable, but also indicates why proper consumption of red meat is actually good for your health, and might reduce risk of cancer:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174009002514

    People… you have to understand… the processed sausage, bacon, and burgers we buy at the supermarket or Mcdonalds have a ton of bad stuff in them (like high fructose corn syrup). Correlation DOES NOT equal causation. And guess what, people who tend to eat more red meat, don’t care much about their health (due to people so worried about their health follow the mainstream advice). So what we are seeing, is people with unhealthy lifestyles, who happen to eat a ton of red meat…

    • I still have a problem with the fact that amongst seven day eventists those that eat meat as opposed to being veggies have a 1.5 times risk of CHD. The risk increases with amount of meat consumed. This does at least take a cohort that are as close as you can get to being similar in outlook. I still think that sourcing grass fed free range meat is a minefield for the average consumer so the best advice is go veggie or perhaps only eat meat that is pretty much likely to be free range grass fed eg Rheindeer or Bison

  7. Seems to me that people invested in high protein diets (bodybuilders etc) and high meat diets (paleo etc) do not want to believe red meat causes cancer and will go the extra mile to pick apart the studies showing it probably does.

    • NeilC- I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I got cancer after many years of being on a mostly vegan diet, with no red meat whatsoever. I am now almost 8 years cancer free after eating a Paleo, low carb diet with as much meat as I naturally feel like eating. I don’t think “they” know what causes cancer! Go figure…..

      • It’s possible that you are healthier now and cancer free because as following the Paleo diet you are avoiding processed foods, grains and sugar. Many people go vegan for humane reasons and know very little about health. A person can follow a healthy vegan lifestyle by avoiding these same things (processed foods, additives, grains, sugars, etc) eat more whole fruits and vegetables and improve in health without the consumption of meat.

        • Binx- yes, all true. When I was eating mostly vegan, I ate a lot of grains, both whole grains as well as white, and lots of white rice, etc. I was also less concerned with sugar, as the dietary advice at the time seemed to look at it as being benign. Though I wasn’t eating huge amounts of dessert and white sugar, I was eating a very high carb, high glycemic diet, which would have turned to sugar in the body; as well as fruits, muffins baked with some kind of sweetener (like maple syrup), etc. I also ate a lot of foods that I personally couldn’t digest properly, like starchy beans. Though at the time I thought I was eating a healthy diet (because I was avoiding meat), I don’t deny that there are healthier vegan diets out there- (though I seriously don’t think vegan is for everyone!) I was mostly making the point that I don’t believe meat causes cancer. There have been many hunter gatherer societies who ate high meat diets and yet had no cancer whatsoever. In my case, meat certainly wasn’t the cause of my cancer, and since I’ve started eating it again, I haven’t relapsed (at least not yet). I have a personal problem with people who are convinced that meat causes cancer and going vegan will cure all ills because I, too, used to believe this! I learned the hard way.

      • Hi Morgana,
        if you dont mind me asking what cancer did you have and which treatments? Also, how long prior to diagnosis was you vegan? Furthermore, yes there are and have been hunter gatherer societies but no way of knowing if cancer was the cause of deaths within them.
        thanks,
        Darren

        • From the EPIC Oxford study

          “Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.”

        • Darren- This is a very late answer. The kind of cancer I got was ovarian, not colorectal, as Mark Littlewood implied. Ovarian cancer is associated with- (not necessarily caused by)- vegetarian and vegan diets. Although Seventh Day Adventists have a lower cancer incidence than the general (American) population, they do have a higher risk of ovarian, as well as prostate cancer, than the general population. But mostly, I believed a vegan diet would keep me from getting cancer- (and that meat would cause disease). So I ate a diet that didn’t feel good to my body, because my head believed I was doing the right thing. (I was mostly vegetarian for about 5 years, and vegan for about 2 years before I was diagnosed; this is an estimation though, I don’t know exactly). Now I feel much better eating low carb with poultry, fish and meat. This is the diet that suits me much better.

  8. The title is a little sensational, but I like the article.

    Here’s the thing though, while it’s possible red meat isn’t the true cause, there’s also no benefit to eating it. So at worse it gives you cancer, at best it does nothing but provide you nutrients you can get elsewhere easily.

    Keep in mind, moderate, under 500g cooked weight of red meat is said by the WHO to be ok to eat per week as long as it’s fresh.

    The gut hypothesis could be true, but we don’t really know what microbiome is ideal and how to get it. Not yet, so it’s not a practical advice.

    Also all diets are simply recommendations, and all studies are probabilities. You can do all the wrong things and still live long and healthy if you’re lucky. So if you want even more chances on your side then avoid red meat as much as possible. How much more chances it’ll give you isn’t really known yet, and it’s hard to know, so pick your battles. Doing more exercise, being less inactive, sleeping more, keeping your brain challenged, eating more fruits, veggies, good fats and keeping your weight down will all help your chances also. There’s probably other things too like drinking less, keeping your stress low, stop smoking, move to a less polluted area, making sure your walls agent moldy, avoiding unneeded antibiotics, etc. Up this you to decide how many of these you’re ok doing. In the end, living longer and being healthy is only worth it if you still enjoy some things in life.

  9. This is the most stupid thing I’ve read in… years!
    Really, you’re seeing (so desperately) what you wanna see…
    Just SEARCH in scientific search engines like PUBMED or EBSCO: “meat and cancer” OR “diet and cancer” or JUST “diet and health”… and MOST studies you’ll find will say what’s obvious… RED meat consumption DO have a strong relation with a huge variety of cancers, and also a VERY STRONG relation with heart failure.
    This is not to discussion, thousands of studies came to the same conclusion, why in the world are you trying to prove otherwise? Against the opinion of very qualified medical comunity…
    I can only think in two reasons:
    1. You’re an as*hole, really, if you love red meat so much, IT’S OK! It’s a free country, feel free to eat as much red meat as you can, no one is taking you that right. What you eat and don’t eat is totally up to you. But red meat, will still be carcinogenic and principal cause of heart failure, and it doesn’t mean that all the doctors in the world are against you, you sound like you’re taking these news very personal, it’s just medicine man, it doesn’t matter how many tantrums you make, that won’t change, grow up man!
    2. You’re part of OR paid by the livestock industry… it is very well known that livestock industry is VERY angry after the WHO decisions on meat, it wouldn’t surprise me that all of these cheap articles were paid by ’em.
    Good luck eating red meat, you’ll need it
    PS: Get a good health insurence, you’ll need it too

    • I am amazed at the number of trolls with negative and sometimes insulting comments. If they disagree in principle with eating meat, why are they on this website to begin with? Besides, the WHO/IARC report was biased from the start and supplemented with cherry picking. To base a study on reports from the recipients is only a survey, not science. So, how many people ate only red meat? How many high carbs? There is no cause and effect proven.

      • Indeed, I think that the WHO has been bought by the powerful brussell sprout lobbying group but then I’m just an old fashioned conspiracy theorist. People have a right to be on here to learn about health and when they disagree they should do so. I think Chris is very wrong on this and is giving the wrong message but to his credit he has not, to my knowledge, censored people.

  10. I’ve been trying to incorporate more omega-3 rich foods, and I like smoked herring. Does smoked fish have too much lipid rancidity to be healthy?

  11. Ooops. Sorry Chris, I arrived at your site via Ben and wrote the wrong name in my post.

    My bad.

    I will have to eat a large steak (rare) in penance.

    Regards

    Craig.

  12. We in the UK are constantly told that a Mediterranean diet is best for longevity.

    Well, having lived in Italy and experienced very healthy old people, who eat Salami, Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham for those who don’t know) and similar meats – I beg to differ when it comes to so called experts advice. Prove it. Eat some yourself and we can experiment on you.

    I am also interested to seek an opinion on why I have canine teeth, if I should not eat ANY type of meat.

    It is all complete drivel, and as long as you cook your food in the correct way, and balance your diet (I eat a large amount of veg and salad too) then you will be fine.

    Besides, you are more likely to be in a car accident that could be fatal than get Cancer.

    Smoking does indeed not help, I restarted after an 18 year lay off – but a divorce forced me back into it rather than drink myself to death.

    I noticed what effect it had, now down to less than 10 per day – and will stop again.

    That (as mentioned before by Ben) is very obviously going to kill me – and I will stop.

    So, given Ben’s advice and what I have already said – eat meat, but balance your diet.

    Stay healthy.

    Now where’s my bacon sandwich 🙂

    • The people in Mediterranean have some very important differences: the size frequency and raising of these foods is very different than American habits and meat available.

      And equally importantly their staples of whole grains ,legumes ,vegetables and fruits are eaten in very high volumes and all, including beans and whole grains, are very protective for avoiding colon and other cancers.

    • Well, the Med diet does not refer to the general Italian diet, but to the diet of rural and sea-coastal Mediterranean towns. In these regions, they eat red meat the least of all other foods.

    • Gregor and Campbell have sacrificed their whole lives for their cause. I especially love Campbell’s story,…. growing up in the golden age of “animal protein”, researching how to get more animal protein to market to save the undernourished third worl, and coming full circle without any ax to grind.
      Both men… Heroes

  13. I too am very worried about Chris’s opinion on this. I know he is a Paleo pusher but when he does not draw a firm line under processed meats I start to wonder. I will not say more than that for fear of getting banned. As far as meat is concerned when you look at the Blue Zone’s one common factor seems to be low consumption or in some cases no consumption of meat. This leaves me with a choice, try to mimick the blue zones and hope that it is dietary and not simply something in the water or pitch in with a bunch of possibles, maybes or perhaps meat with etc etc will be OK. I only get one role of the dice.

    • I love red meat.
      If my body didn’t react to it I would go get a McDonald’s hamburger right now.
      In 2000 I went to Mayo’s because of a condition that caused my joints to ache severely, and though I didn’t recognize it for seven years, it also affected my thinking.
      In 2007 after a 35 day fast I realized that something in my diet was causing it. It took me three months to figure out it was red meat.
      Today if I accidentally eat any mammal meat in about 4 hours I will feel very tired and want to go to bed. I will wake up with severe joint pain. In a day or two my body will expell it and within 15 seconds my blood pressure will drop 40 points and I will feel better.
      As a sidenote I get the same symptoms if I get a cut on my body that becomes infected. It seems as though anytime my body has to metabolize redmeat even my own it causes the problem.
      My advise. Try not eating red meat. If it helps, don’t eat any. If it doesn’t help, go buy a baconator at Wendy’s and enjoy.

      • Gary , you mention the issue or why your body rejects red meat: you are eating ‘cooked’ meat. Cooked meat is damaged protein – the nutrients have been destroyed. Meat is meant to be eaten raw. And most people can’t rap their mind around that, but its true. Raw red meat tastes great in my opinion.

      • Mc’Donalds? are you kidding me?. What’s that? like 1/3 lb of extremely processed meat COVERED in processed bread and processed sauce (hint: everything here has high fructose corn syrup).

        And you call that red meat? if this is what people refer to “red meat causing cancer” well no shit. You don’t have to be a scholar to realize food made out of a chem lab will give you cancer.

  14. Dear Chris,

    The hyperbole, fallacy and misinterpretation of data in this and other articles written on critical health topics on this site are very disconcerting considering the influence that you supposedly have over people’s health decisions. I will go so far as saying what you are doing is irresponsible. I recognize that the media you produce probably does have a positive impact to some in certain ways. But please be careful not to misuse data to disguise opinion as fact.

    In comment to your article, the WHO explicitly mentions in its report that processed meat and red meat are not equivalent cancer risks compared with cigarette smoking. The WHO also explicitly states in its report that red meat and other meats have health benefits, and should not necessarily be avoided altogether (as opposed to their view on cigarette smoking). The point is reduction and moderation of red meat consumption, especially processed meat.

    Your assessment that saturated fat in foods such as red meat does not lead to high cholesterol did not make the prevailing clinical guidelines of healthcare professionals “less convincing.” Your argument is based on an article that evaluated only the effects of saturated fat on HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels. The same article validates the highly vetted studies that have determined serum LDL (“bad cholesterol”) is about as strongly associated with dietary saturated fat as can be. It is LDL that is of concern when we’re discussing causes of atherosclerosis and other forms of heart disease.

    There is fallacy in your argument that there is no “likelihood of a causal relationship between red meat and cancer” because it is supposedly protective of some GI cancer and contributory to others. First of all, don’t forget there is no such thing as a causal relationship, only correlations. We’ll never know for certain, but we can be pretty sure about the data by controlling variables, objective peer reviews, and analyzing statistical information. There are different mechanisms likely involved in the effects of red meat on different GI cancers. If red meat is supposedly protective against one cancer, that doesn’t diminish the body of knowledge that points to it being contributory to another type.

    You seem to have gained popularity by speaking against conventional medical wisdom. In many cases this is called for. But when doing this, please for the sake of health, take more responsibility to publish accurate and unbiased information.

    -Paul (medical student)

    • Hello Chris,

      I’d like to say I agree (a bit) with Paul… while I appreciate that you tackle topics that are of importance to the general public (and that you are, in fact, writing for them- not professionals) sometimes a little more attention to the nuances of the data and details might be needed.
      For example, up above you wrote “The patients with cancer had significant elevations of Bacteroides/Prevotella (both species that are recognized as potentially harmful) when compared to the control group,” but a little more attention to detail here would have improved your statement and your sentiment. Bacteriodes and Prevotella are NOT SPECIES, but in fact GENERA, and as such have many members with different characteristics. A genus that is familiar, Felis, includes domestic cats but also jungle cats reaching weights of 35lbs. One might be able to kill you, one might make you feel happy… same Genus.
      You wrote, “composition of the gut microbiota may directly affect the influence of dietary factors on cancer risk,” then went on to make this statement about Bacteroides and Prevotella levels… it doesn’t mean these genera are protective. And even though these genera have many members, each of which might contribute or detract to the microbiome, these level changes could be DUE to chemotherapy, changing only AFTER cancer occurred. The the same arguments many paleo lovers are familiar with apply here, “correlation does not mean causation,” and as Taubes has said, “Do NOT over interpret your data.” Furthermore, Prevotella was found to be reduced in children with Autism (plosone.org, July 2013, Vol. 8, Issue 7). So, is it protective or detrimental? It’s a group, right? With different individuals with different characteristics. Or maybe, it’s vulnerable to changing levels drastically in different situations. The point is that this data is AT BEST a starting point for a good hypothesis for experimental research.
      That said, I’m a microbiology professor and I’m holding your words to a high level. I’d probably not correct any of my undergrads more than in passing. You DO put forth more effort than some other people I’ve seen. I applaud your intent. Just, perhaps, try a little harder to keep your statements a bit more moderate? Thanks.

      • One other problem with meat is that research shows that in conjunction with carbs such as white rice or potatoes you get a much bigger insulin spike than you would with the carb’s alone. this may explain the recent rise in diabetes rates in places like China who until recent increased meat consumption had low rates despite very high rates of white rice consumption

        • One could say:
          the problem with rice and other high carbs is that research shows that in conjunction with red meat that you get a much bigger insulin spike.

          So, whats your point?

      • Thanks Aurora, I enjoyed reading this and Paul’s response.

        Before I arrived at this article I had been reading about the WHO report on the cancer research site and it is interesting to see the difference between what they say and how the media have interpreted it. Cancer Research are happy for people to eat 70g red or processed meat per day, whereas most media simple say ‘red meat is bad like smoking’.

        It’s an interesting conversation!

  15. What I would like to see is a study on red meat that only uses organic meat, in other words, meat from pasture-raised cattle, not the current factory-farmed and gmo-fed meat typically seen in the grocery store. Sick meat makes sick people, and gmo-fed animals are sick.

    • I agree, I would love to see this– I would hypothesize a big difference in outcomes when comparing grass-fed organic beef consumption to factory farmed beef and/or the pink slime version of beef. It would be no surprise to find THAT to be carcinogenic!

    • Thank you for bringing some sense to the analysis of this article. How can a valid judgement be made when the meat eaten is already toxic from the massive metabolic ravages of industrialised farming.

      Also the industrialisation of the various fraudulent oils that the UE and FDA sanction as edible is of huge concern.

      Most people will actually be cooking their meat in toxic, highly processed oils, of dubious origin.

      The carcinogens occurring in heated seed oils could be as much of a long term danger as the meat itself.

      As for plastic containers for the oils, well the list of carcinogens goes on, way beyond the meat itself.

  16. @CHRIS KRESSER

    Every one of these articles coursing on FB about meat and malignancy are making me insane! Only a little learning about history and a tiny bit of judgement skills goes far. Anyway, I posted your article on my FB page and as a reaction to everybody’s inquiries and different articles saying meat causes disease.

    regards
    rakhi

  17. I loved this article, but I still feel so confused.

    My father was recently diagnosed with kidney cancer, that has spread to his lymphatic system. We are opting to treat it naturally.
    My question is if a person already has cancer, should they remove it from their diet? Every natural cancer sight says “yes.” And to eat legumes, such an lentils instead.
    I have been a devoted paleo and westen A. price follower for years and now am radically rethinking everything I know?

    Would you eat meat if you already had cancer?

    Help, please!

    • Hello Aubrey- I realize your comment was meant for Chris, so I don’t want to tell you what to do- (so you can take this with a grain of salt). But I got cancer 6 years ago, after eating a plant-based diet for many years prior- (no red meat at all, only very occasional fish and eggs). I, too, had to rethink everything I thought I “knew” about diet. I think it’s a total fallacy that a vegan diet will save you from cancer- (or that “meat causes cancer”)- because I obviously got cancer from eating no meat. I think there’s a very strong anti-meat bias in our culture right now, which colors people’s view- (the media certainly doesn’t help with this). After being diagnosed, I had a bit of a “devil-may-care” attitude; I immediately started eating meat again (as well as other foods, like fat)- because it was clear to me that the diet that I thought would protect me didn’t actually do that. Once I switched to eating meat, I started feeling much healthier; which got me researching; eventually I discovered the Primal diet…..and well, the rest is history. (I’ve been cancer free for 6 years now). Also, keep in mind that cancer was extremely rare in hunter gatherer cultures. For instance, apparently there were many centenarians among the Sioux Indians; they were a mostly meat eating group of people, and cancer was essentially non-existent among them.

      Bottom line is, I don’t think we really *know* what causes cancer. There are many theories, and of course people loudly vocalize what they believe. If you are interested, let me direct you to the work of Dr. Seyfried. He has a theory that cancer is a metabolic disease, caused by damaged mitochondria. (You can google him, and find some information). This idea seems to be the best explanation for my own experience, anyway. I hope this helps……

      • The problem with stating that one is plant based is that it hides the possibility that numerous other bad dietary habits may have been adopted. I get loads of emails from my local Veggie society inviting me to meals out and when I look at the menu its full of stuff I would not dream of eating. Many people are veggies or vegans for ethical reasons not health reasons and when you drill down their diet is pretty bad, full of sugar, grains etc.

        • Mark- yes, that’s a good point! And true, when I was mostly vegan, I did eat grains- (lots of them; but when you’re plant based, there isn’t much else to eat). I ate some sugar- (much of it without even realizing it at the time. I ate a lot of vegetarian sushi rolls, thinking they were “healthy”; they looked and tasted “natural”; I didn’t realize sushi has sugar and other additives). I also ate a lot of legumes, which made me sick to my stomach. (Legumes was something Aubrey was asking about). The problem is, Mark, in order for people to know what’s “healthy”, they have to study nutrition pretty extensively- (I do that now; most people don’t). You also have to know enough to disregard what the media says (including the WHO!) I didn’t do that before; I assumed people in positions of power knew what they were talking about. I’m sure many people make this mistake.

          I’ve since stopped eating grains and sugar, and I personally feel better for it. I’ve also discovered I can’t tolerate soy, so I don’t eat that. Most legumes make me sick, and there are very many vegetables I can’t eat either, as i get digestive issues. So, that doesn’t leave me much in the way of vegan food. I feel really great eating eggs, fish, cheese, meat, and some vegetables (the ones I tolerate). My own personal theory is that the diet that is best for each of us is the one we can digest the best. Good digestion is essential; when you don’t digest your food properly, you can’t assimilate the nutrients. So, the optimal diet for one person may not be the optimal diet for another.

          • Have you tried blending veggies into a predominantly veg smoothie, this may make them easier to digest. Every day I have a beetroot, spinach, apple and chia seed smoothie

            • Mark- yes, I have tried juicing. That’s actually quite terrible for me: too many FODMAPS and sugars, all at once in the system! I think that plant foods have fiber as a natural insurance that you don’t eat too many of them in one sitting- (at least, for people like me). In any case, the problem is not that I need to add more vegetables to my diet; I eat plenty of vegetables. The problem is that I don’t want to go vegan (been there, done that!) partly because I would not be able to eat a variety of different foods to give me enough nutrients and calories. Next reason: I have read that some people are able to extract the nutrients better from plant foods than others- (there are various conversions that need to happen within the body; not like with animal foods, where the nutrients are in an easily bio-available form). If you’re one of the people that can extract enough nutrients and calories, and be healthy on a plant based diet, great! But I don’t seem to be one of those people. And since others like me exist, this is the reason why I don’t think it’s a good idea to give people advice, even if it works well for you. As I said, where I live I have access to good quality and affordable wild meat and poultry (and wild fish). I am perfectly happy eating this way, so I will stick with that.

        • There is now significant evidence that increased blood glucose levels increases the incidence and the rate of growth of cancer. The physiological explanation of why this might be is that cancer cells are restricted to and require glucose directly as fuel to grow and multiply due to their defective mitochondria. This presents an opportunity to disadvantage cancer cells in comparison to normal cells. Eating a daily diet restricted to around 30 carbohydrate calories would provide this advantage. This translates into meat and above-ground vegetables, limited fruits, typically small berries and severely limits grains and starches. No wonder diabetics and obese individuals are in a significantly higher risk category for cancer.

          • I now question everything I know. I always limited my fruit/carb intake. My father went on the NORI diet (high fruit) and the tumor in his neck has started to go down and He feels great. He is eating a low-fat, high fruit!

            It goes against everything I thought I knew. I have a paleo blog, and yet have seen result from doing the opposite.
            I now know there is not one way to eat.

            • I thought it was accepted fact that cancer cells metabolize glucose (sugar) as their main source of fuel. Doctors have used 1/2 bar of Herseys chocolate (eaten by the patient) to “light up” the cancerous areas in the human body during the body scan. I personally don’t eat sugar (for over a year now). I also restrict my carb intake because the human body turns carbs into sugar. My body has been using good oils (fats), protein and ketones for over a year now. I’ve had numerous blood work ups that show that everything is great!! Cancer cells can not metabolize Ketones. To make Ketosis even more inviting….Ketones help reduce inflammation in the human body, just like eating Blueberries reduces inflammation (Blueberries contain Ketones). I’ve written before that reducing inflammation in the body should also reduce the risk of cancer formation (less cell damage). If you do happen to get cancer while in Ketosis the cancer should starve to death or remain dormant.

              Treblig

            • Aubrey- I’m glad you returned to this discussion. My personal opinion is that there are different ways to combat (or starve) cancer, not just one way. That sounds wonderful that your father is doing so well; maybe this is the answer then! In my opinion, this doesn’t necessarily counter all that you believe in. The Paleo diet is also a healthy diet- (Paleo people did eat fruit too, after all). Also, a point to remember, is that a “curative” diet for someone who’s ill may be a temporary diet, and not necessarily the diet that everyone else should eat all the time. In any case, we are all constantly learning about nutrition, and it’s best to just keep researching, and to keep an open mind.

          • Dave Boothman- thanks for your comment. This is exactly the route that I’ve decided upon for myself. I don’t have cancer now, but I’ve been eating low carb, no sugar (i.e. no refined sugar, I do eat some fruits and vegetables), to prevent recurrence. So far it’s been working. I also do intermittent fasting and try to keep some ketones roaming around in my body- (apparently, this keeps the mitochondria healthy). I can definitely say that I have much more energy eating this way. Back when I ate the high carb, mostly vegan, “government guideline” diet I felt “burned out” so much of the time! Maybe that was a sign of unhealthy mitochondria.

      • Going to throw another side of the story out there. Yes red meat can be good for you but its the quality. I would not be surprised if our basic non organic red meat causes cancer specifically based on the fact that it is pumped up with hormones which ARE cancer causing. Extra estrogen intake is the cause for many diseases and cancers like breast cancer ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer and endometriosis just to name a few. Wild animals that eat what God intended and are free range and killed properly would never be cancer causing but sadly to say these are not the same meats easily available to us in our grocery stores. I have endometriosis and have stopped eating meat for a month now to see if it had any effect and it has my pain has decresed significantly. Blessings on your health journeys everyone!

        • Hello Marie- Yes, this is so true! Unfortunately it’s a huge problem in America. Thankfully hormones have not been a problem for us in Europe so far, though I fear that may be coming. In any case, I prefer to eat wild meat. Not only does it taste way better, but I’m sure it’s healthier.

      • You were not a vegan, and you were not plant based. You ate fish and eggs. Of course vegans can get cancer too we live in a carcinogenic world! that doesnt mean becoming a murderous corpse eater is the way to go!

      • Deciding that meat doesn’t give you cancer because you got cancer on a plant-based diet ignores the fact that you could have gotten cancer for a million other reasons such as asbestos exposure.

        • Or more likely his cancer developed decades before the six years he was on a better diet.

          Appears that many do not want science, they instead want opinions of unqualified people like on this site.

      • You need to do some research on cancer and also on the low rates among vegans who eat a whole plant-based diet not fries and ketchup!
        Cancer takes many decades to develop and the fact that you might have been on a good diet for six years is proof of nothing…except there is evidence of cancer being reversed by changing the diet.

    • Why would you?, no one seems to be saying that plant based diets are associated with Cancer so even if the meat = higher risk of cancer crowd are wrong going plant based is not going to have an adverse effect especially if you supplement with vitamin Bs to compensate for the achilles heels of pure plant based diets.

      • Mark- I’m afraid you’re wrong about that. A little known fact- (even in the mainstream media)- is that the kind of cancer I had is, in fact, associated with vegetarian and vegan diets. (Of course, “correlation doesn’t equal causation”, so it’s not clear that they cause this cancer either; just like, I may hasten to add, it’s not clear that “meat causes cancer”!) Seventh Day Adventists (who are vegan or vegetarian, I can’t remember which)- have a much higher rate of this particular cancer than the general population. But that’s not my only reason for eating the way I do now; this whole cancer experience has taught me that quality of life is equally important. When I ate a high carb, plant based diet I felt totally rotten; eating a primal diet, I feel healthier than I have in my life. I would rather feel good during the rest of my years on this earth. So you may as well save your energy; I’m not going to eat vegan again, just forget about it.

        • You give almost no facts….I have to guess that you are citing one study in 2009 that contradicted many other studies and said colorectal cancer was more common about vegetarians and vegans, at least in the UK.
          Sorry, I do not buy it. I would rather use the modern diet of many Africans today that is very similar or worse than that of the US, yet they have almost no colon cancer.
          They consume less fiber and more processed foods but very little meat. How do you explain the near absence of colon cancer?

  18. Hi Chris –
    I couldn’t believe it when I saw that red meat was being compared to cigarettes. There is a huge difference and I was pleased to see that the correlation wasn’t as strong after doing a little bit of reading. I think that is the key here – doing more research than just accepting a headline and moving along. Have you encountered a lot of people that are 100% accepting of that claim?

    • I certainly believe it! Is it your addiction to meat or cigarettes that makes it so unbelievable? It certainly is not science or the evidence presented by the five Blue Zones of long-living populations.

  19. Eating meat is not essential to health, and the WHO is NOT lying. They’re not attacking you.
    There is no reason to eat meat other than taste, culture, and convenience. Stop spreading misinformation and shut down this blog.

    • You really omitted the strongest reason to consume large quantities of meat. It is addiction and can be shown in studies of the brain.

  20. Lots of interesting comments and I’m glad to see comments on the reserch and not just peoples’ opinions. Haven’t seen any relationships made to blood type. I see that type O’s eat a high meat diet more successfully than type A’s who do better on low protein. Our digestive systems have evolved differently. Interesting that a lot (but by no means all) of macrobiotics are type A by natural choices of what is best for them.

  21. I tried the paleo diet for awhile and felt miserable. I don’t think it’s actually a healthy diet. I don’t think anyone really even knows for sure what an actual “paleolithic” diet was like. And I didn’t like not being able to eat black beans, but being encouraged to eat bacon. It was ridiculous. There’s just no way you’re going to convince me that eating meat at every meal and not eating black beans is healthy. And do we really think Paleolithic people actually ate beef all the time? Why do no paleo diet books ever talk about eating grubs and insects? Or fish? Nuts? Who says that they didn’t eat grains?

    https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2012nl/jun/paleo2.htm

    Research here demonstrates people ate grains and legumes as early as 44,000 years ago.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21187393

    And why should we be Paleolithic? The whole concept is absurd. Why can’t we just look at more recent eras of our history where rates of cancer and heart disease were lower? Like say, the 1940s? Or at least at a time before we had processed foods. At least at a time where we have more data to look at what and how people ate as well as their lifestyles. It’s impossible to mimic a diet based on a time frame we know little about, and at the earliest point of our history.

    Whatever. It’s a silly fad and a silly diet. I’ll be happy to hear this trendy diet leaving mainstream discussion and I will gladly go back to a diet that makes sense to me.

    • I do not believe that we can use one particular book as a bible to tell us how to eat. I do believe that all of the processed crap that has been shoved at us and the distorted genetically modified wheat that we are fed is doing us no good. I personally do not believe that we should not eat legumes either. I have also read that the paleo diet was different for peoples living in different parts of the world. Inuits live on as much as 95% protein diets (look at where they live) while other peoples subsisted on 85% vegetarian diets. I have not read the Paleo Book by Cordain (I am glad I have not). I have personally cut back on breads and potatoes because diabetes runs in my family and that helps me maintain my sugar levels. I think the point of the Paleo diet is as you wisely pointed out. Avoid the processed crap, eat locally and as naturally as possible. It looks like McDougall has chosen sides in this argument. I do believe that white rice is a good starch to eat and that eating different potatoes than the normal varieties that most of us eat is probably fine also. Cordain is advocating one form of extreme eating and the dude that wrote the book on the starch diet is advocating another extreme. Lets educate ourselves and then use our common sense to decide what to eat and what best works for ourselves. Thank you for posting McDougall’s letter. I found it interesting.

    • In order for prehistoric man/woman to survive the long cold winters they had to have had to eat meat as their main source of food. There are no vegetables of fruits during 4-6 months of the winter cycle. This is why the human body is capable of surviving on meat/fat without fruits and vegetables. In fact you can survive without any sugar at all and little to no carbs. The human body automatically goes into Ketosis in the absence of sugar and carbs. This is an accepted fact. If you eat fat (good oils) and meat your body will burn the fat and also use the meat for energy and bone development. Why Oh why would the human body develop this adaptation??…..Because early man had to survive on meat and fat for a good number of months every year. The Eskimos (Inuit) still survive this way and they’ve survived in sub zero weather longer than everyone in the US.
      Ketosis is an interesting state to be in!! During Ketosis your body produces Ketones (lots and lots of Ketones). Ketones reduce inflammation, this is why your supposed to eat blueberries (for the Ketones). On the other hand sugar increases inflammation, imagine that??/ The human body converts carbohydrates into sugar, imagine that??
      The icing on the “sugar free” cake is this…..Cancer cells can not metabolize Ketones, cancer thrives (and multiples) on sugar, imagine that??.

      PS – Black beans are actually good for you and are low in carbs (like most beans). I’ve been on a super low carb/low sugar, high fat (good oils), meat diet for over a year. My blood shows an increase in good Cholesterol and decrease in the bad. I have plenty of energy, feel great and my allergies have disappeared for the first time in 50 years!!!

      Treblig

  22. I’d like to see a study where these processed meats are sourced from healthy, appropriately fed, clean animals, managed in a sustainable environment and “processed” in traditional ways. Then look at the rates of cancer and compare. Seems to me we are still lumping all red meat together, as if it makes no difference how those animals were raised or how the meat was processed.

    • That’s the way junk science works. In diet science it’s almost a favorite. For example lump trans fat with saturated fat then when you get caught out pretend saturated fat is still dangerous despite solid scientific data sowing it isn’t. I’m waiting for the water with Warfarin lumped together test, they they both begin with W. When that one crashes they’ll rationalize that yes, water is less harmful than Warfarin. Think I’m cynical then look up the rationalization of all trans fats being harmful . Now its changed to naturally occurring ones are less harmful. Let’s see how long it takes for it to get out that all trans fats are not equal; there’s a left hand and a right hand and only the manufactured one is toxic, the other one is naturally occurring in food.

    • Yes, this is so true, and a big reason why these so-called “studies” aren’t very credible. In addition, I’d be interested in seeing a study where they measure how many people eat processed meat and DON’T get cancer. If it were really scientifically done, shouldn’t we see the other side of the coin, so to speak? If a large proportion of people eat processed meat but don’t have any health problems- (which I suspect would be the case: I live in Germany, where many people eat processed meat, but people aren’t dying right and left of colon cancer)- wouldn’t their “association” all blow up in smoke?

  23. I’m just going to state the obvious. Darwinian evolution insists that, it is the nature of the human primate to eat meat, inclusive of red meat. For millennia, human lived as foragers, hunting meat, and gathering fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Our species is defined by meat-eating. To claim that there is some toxic carcinogen waiting to poison us inside meat is about as incredible as to suggest that, next, we should stop feeding our dogs and cats meat as well.

    Do I detect the vegetarian agenda rearing its head again? They’ll not just leap to the wrong conclusion, they’ll leap over mountains to convert someone to their way of thinking. As a paleodieter, I had been shamed by a vegetarian on “moral grounds” –pointing to the violence of killing animals. Yet, is a tiger morally bankrupt by just following what nature intended for it. First things first. Until we solve the overriding problem of Man’s Inhumanity to Man, we shouldn’t even begin to worry about eating animal meat. To malign the goodness of all hunters over this, is wrong-headed. I usually respond to their argument that I object to the eating of grain on moral grounds —as, it was the advent of agriculture spawned by grains spawned interpersonal violence more than any other single factor (read Pandora’s Seed by Spencer Wells, and many other books that look at Evolutionary Psychology). I shame them for eating grain in support of the millennia of war, greed, and violence spawned by grain.

    But back to the main argument, Human Evolution would be perverse to design an animal who cannot eat the foods it was designed to eat (as ludicrous as it sounds!) In fact, meat is the ONLY food group that can sustain us if no other food existed. The Inuits prove this, undeniably. They live in a place where fruits and vegetables often don’t even exist. All they eat is fish, seals and walruses, and red polar bear meat (I don’t claim to have made a precise inventory here). Basically, they just eat meat —and they live a full, healthy life, often into their 70s, as do most of us in the Occident.

    So again, how is it possible that the important part of our diet across the millennia, now, is somehow poisonous If the claim is about some chemical called haem that gives red meat its color. I assure you that they’ll, eventually, discover that (whoops!), the haem is only problematic nowadays because it conflicts with this other modern chemical addition to our diet (the X-factor!) that we didn’t properly consider. It is “X-factor” that has to be removed from our diet; the red meat is fine as Nature made it. I predict that will be true; because, otherwise, the theory of Darwinian evolution is basically trash. Yet, if that claim were true, than all of biology goes with it. And that is astoundingly unlikely. I predict WHO will find it’s not yet even on first base yet (WHO’s on first??) It will find itself in the embarrassing position of comedienne Gilda when she was forced to whine, “Nevermind!”

    • I am repeating myself but its needed. The meat we have at our disposal in local supermarkets available to the masses does not really resemble the meat our ancestors were living on, in fact it does not really resemble the meat eaten by much more recent cousins. For me the argument pivots on the idea that if you cannot access quality meats or perhaps afford them then you would be better of going veggie from a health perspective.

      • Nutrient density and nutrient diversity as well as what is considered a choice cut are two problems. What others do you have?

      • I think you are forgetting that we did not just go from “hunter-gatherer” to “consumer” in one fell swoop. We have also been herders, traditionally, for a very long time. Domesticated meat has been the mainstay of many native diets, even longer than many of our more modern plant foods. So again, this argument doesn’t really hold up. And as was mentioned in the article, “processed” meat- in the form of hanging, drying, salting, fermenting, etc., has also been around a long time. There is no logical reason why there should be anything inherently wrong with red meat.

        • I am not suggesting we have jumped from individually running around hunting meat to buying it in a supermarket. What I am saying is that confined feeding and rearing plus grain fed meats plus injecting them with anti biotics is a recent thing and is the reason we should avoid this TYPE of meat

          • Mark- I’m glad you clarified that, because it seemed to me that all this time you were advising people to cut out meat and eat vegetables instead; I’m pretty sure this is what you said. It’s important to remember also that when you write comments on the internet, your audience is going to be international, not just American. In many countries around the world, meat in the supermarket is not “bad” meat. I realize it can be harder for Americans, but it’s still not impossible. Some supermarkets sell Amish meat, which is probably not a bad choice. Many people have access to farmer’s markets, and buying meat from the “small farmer” is probably your best bet- (as opposed to Whole Foods, where the meat might be expensive. However, sometimes it may go on sale, and since meat is so easy to freeze, you can take advantage of sales). Some cuts of meat are generally cheaper, like ground beef or stewing meat- (which you have to cook slowly; but it can be really delicious in a stew!) For those who have access to high quality liver and other offal, that is often very reasonable too. And if you have trouble finding good quality meat where you live, the Weston Price Foundation has information for where you can order it.

            Finally, I always remind myself that meat is a very satiating, nutrient dense food. I feel it is worth a few extra dollars; especially since I’m not buying the packaged cookies, pastries, cereals, and other crap that many others buy. I suspect the price probably all evens out in the end……

            • Both messages ie include meat full stop and exclude meat full stop are both incorrect but the latter, in the current climate, is the least damaging, in fact not damaging at all. When I speak to people about food it is very difficult to get them to take ideas on board let alone stick with them. So if I was addressing a room of people with limited funds and limited interest I would advise veggie. Why?, because its healthy compared to the undiscerning route they would take with meat. My concern with Chris is that has not made it clear about the caveats with regard to meat.

              • Mark- I ate vegetarian (actually, mostly vegan)- for many years, and I became massively ill from that diet. I’m not saying it’s wrong for everyone, but many people DON’T thrive on that diet! So I don’t believe it should be recommended “for the masses”. Let people decide what diet is best for them.

                • I get regular emails from my local veggie society regarding get togethers and the like. What strikes me is how awful their eating seems to be despite the veggie baseline. Lots of pasta, sugar and any old crap as long as its not harming animals which seems to be their primary concern. Veggie does not always equal healthy. Personally I am closer to Pescarian than anything

        • There are very logical reasons why the meat, chickens and fish are very different than 100 years ago, so talking about what people consumed 100,000 years ago is folly.

    • Dale Bach- great comment! You’ve expressed my own opinion very well. The idea that red meat should be “unhealthy” just does not make logical sense to me at all. Partly from an evolutionary perspective, of course, but also it’s clear to me that I feel really healthy when I eat it.

      Also, that book you recommended sounds interesting….thanks for that, I’ll have to check it out.

    • Another interesting book written by a retired Anthropologist considers the evidence regarding the demise of the Neanderthals and the survival of Homo Sapiens. Neanderthals were quite similar to us, probably even had bigger brains, so what happened? The single stark archaeological contrast now Neanderthal sites are being seriously excavated is that human sites of the period always have dog remains, sometimes buried together with humans, so they were highly valued. Neanderthal sites have no evidence of dogs. At the time of the demise the climate became cold and challenging and the theory suggests that hunting dogs made the difference between eating and starvation. I’ve hunted in Georgia with a hound pack, feral hogs and bear, and can confirm that men and dogs make a far superior predator to man alone. Dogs bring the prey to bey after several hours but being smart hold back to avoid injury. Man then moves in and kills the prey from a safe distance, because we are tool users. The result is that men and dogs would eat where separate neither would most times. If dogs made all the difference why did the Neanderthals not have dogs? Here the theory is entirely speculative. Most animals do not have whites to their eyes but both dogs and humans do and they use the whites to communicate. A dog will watch your eyes intently looking for signals because they communicate with each other with eye movement. So this aspect of human and dog phenotype is matched and would make inter-species cooperation easier. The speculative suggestion is that maybe Neanderthals didn’t have whites to their eyes and so did not have the advantage in attracting dogs into their camps. Humans and Neanderthals did cohabit from time to time the evidence is in our DNA so why were they unable to adopt and work together with our dogs? And if dogs made the difference it wasn’t in finding more cabbages; dogs hunt meat. No wonder dogs have become so valued in our culture and are virtually a part of our phenotype, with millions of them living the life of Rile at our expense because of what heir ancestors did for us and is now burred unconsciously in our psyche.
      “The Invaders” by Pat Shipman

      • That’s also fascinating! I sort of like the theory that the Neanderthals mated with Homo Sapiens and became incorporated in us- (maybe because I “feel” sort of like a Neanderthal myself, and so I relate to them): but this theory could fit together with that. If whites of the eyes are, from an evolutionary standpoint, a trait that helped hominids survive, maybe it makes sense that this trait was a slow adaptation, until all humans had white eyes?

  24. Chris,
    What is Your opinion about the Significance of Neu5gc when It comes to hashimotos? (the podcast you referred in the comments does not mention auto immunity) Should one with hashimotos limit red meats?

    • I don’t believe the evidence is sufficient to discourage red meat consumption in people with autoimmunity because of Neu5gc.

  25. Those with a type 4 APOE gene are supposed to be less tolerable of meat and animal fat. It is conjecture on my part but I wonder whether the likes of Esseltyn and Ornish do well with their patients on meat free diets because being already patients of heart disease they are more likely to have more than a random number of APOE type 4 meat eaters. It would be interesting to know what the split is amongst there patients

  26. Many scientists turn out to be anything but, and survive only because of society’s addiction to credentialitis. This is an epidemiological study which implies it is likely to be mostly nonsense, not my opinion but that of one of the world-leading epidemiologists. http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/dirty_little_secret/
    Only about one in ten papers based upon studies is worth reading because that’s how few stand up to subsequent critical analysis and attempts to confirm the data. An easy way to avoid wasting time reading junk papers is to ignore any paper where the data does not show a difference from a current norm of greater than two to one. Only in rare cases do those below this mark stand up to subsequent careful analysis and attempts to duplicate the data. We’ve noticed the withdrawal of numbers papers is accelerating as more of us go after nonsense data. The number of cases of outright data fraud by individuals and being caught seems also to be rising. Currently the National Nutritional Guidelines is in the process of crashing and burning while those responsible for the guidelines are attempting a soft landing employing the diversionary tactic of replacing “villain fat” with “toxic sugar”. In the update of the Guidelines of a few years ago the science individuals responsible for them refused to reveal who they were and remained strenuously anonymous despite all attempts to smoke them out. To me that was a stronger indication of guilt than taking the fifth. I don’t blame them for trying to hide; I would fear a class-action personal injury suit too.

  27. In recent years, studies were published linking bowel cancer to infectious agents in certain types of red meat, especially from European/American dairy cows (bos taurus). The suspected mechanism is that cancer is in some cases an infectious disease, with a mechanism similar to the link between HPV and cancer.

    Right now, in my opinion, this is all mere speculation and far from conclusive evidence but still I am curious what you think of it?

    Here are some of the mentioned studies:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22212999
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25648405

  28. Recent interview with Dr Dean Ornish here giving his side of the debate

    review/144311515/add77206fa?inf_contact_key=425102492f729fe9c00776b96909d17b29843797bbd8eeffe63c9cace24bf9f7

    • Sorry repost of link

      review/144311515/add77206fa?inf_contact_key=425102492f729fe9c00776b96909d17b29843797bbd8eeffe63c9cace24bf9f7

      • It appears that the site does not allow me to post links or is it links to plant based advocates as I am sure I have posted links before

  29. I’m disappointed that Chris K. focused on the broad topic of red meat, when the WHO report mostly condemned processed meat. I still have no clarification on bacon. 🙁

    • You are unlikely to get a confident answer, bacon may be bad for you on the other hand it may not. There is an association but not a proven cause. So what do you do and here is my point stated previously. Fortunately we don’t have to take a chance. We do not live in world where bacon is the only source of food. There are plenty of other foods that do not have associations with ill health. Simply substitute those foods for bacon and sleep at night.

  30. Chris,

    Do you know of or are there any experimental results showing how much of these nitrites/nitrates can be removed from bacon. I’ve searched the internet for hours and haven’t found any empirical findings. I have to stay on a low carb, low sugar diet to keep my Diverticulosis in check. I eat 20-25 strips of bacon every morning with Better “N eggs cooked on low heat in 4 TBLS of EVOO. I soak the bacon in cold water for about an hour before I cook it. (microwave). I also change the water in the bacon three or four times while it soaks. I’ve noticed that the bacon isn’t nearly as salty after soaking. In fact it barely has any taste at all but it does give breakfast more protein. Does the fact that the salty taste is gone mean that the nitrites/nitrates are GONE???
    Please post any experimental results you’ve found.

    thanks,
    Treblig

    • Triblig To me it sounds like you’re taking good precautions in the preparation but then you’re ruining the the bacon by microwaving ( nuking ) it, food that is microwaved is dead food devoid of any nutrients and the food molecules altered & destroyed by the nuking process. Microwaves do even more harm to the body, check it out. I put my microwave unit out to the curb 10 years ago & even cut the cord so it won’t be harming anyone else who might have noticed it there want to pick it up take it home and use it ..

      • Ida, Chris posted something on Microwaves earlier this year –
        http://chriskresser.com/are-microwave-ovens-safe/ , where he mentions:

        “Do microwaves destroy nutrients?

        As far as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phenols, retention does not appear to depend on cooking method. Levels of nutrient retention were sometimes higher in microwaved food, and sometimes lower, depending on time, temperature, and amount of water used in the cooking process. (16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

        In general, nutrients are lost from food during any type of cooking, and more nutrients are lost when the temperature is higher or the food is cooked for longer. Water soluble vitamins are readily leached into cooking liquid (no surprise there), so boiling food tends to result in greater nutrient losses than microwaving it with a small amount of water (unless you drink the water you boiled the food in, in which case you’d still be getting most of the nutrients). ”

        So I really don’t think you should be claiming that anything cooked in the microwave is devoid of nutrients.

        • The meat causing cancer- colon cancer is complwetely worng,. I was a natural unprocessed foods vegetarian for 30 years and in my 40s had colon cancer- how so? from a prescription statin drug- one pill for several years and “that” resulted in cancer in the past. Drugs cause cancer, not meat. Drugs are made from petrochemicals! basically fractitioned toluen and road tar in the making of them- as I found out years later.

      • gh- if pig meat is “immunosuppressive”, how is it that the older Okinawans are so healthy? Traditionally they ate pork, and used lard for cooking. In fact many very healthy groups of people eat pork regularly, and our ancestors have been eating wild pig for quite awhile. What evidence do you have that it is “immunosuppressive”?

  31. Sounds to me like someone refused to pay extortion money or something like that. WHO and similar organizations don’t give a damn about people’s health; their driving interest is the continuation of their own existence. So, they have to come up with something startling on a regular basis. Truth and good science are meaningless in the face of their need, and greed, for power. I put the FDA firmly in the same category. I will continue to use my own good sense to eat the food Creator put here for us.

  32. That Obesity Reviews report (2) was done by Exponent, Inc.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exponent_(consulting_firm)#Neutrality

    “The quality and neutrality of reports produced by the company have been called into question on various controversial topics. Common points of critique include corporate denialism and that, for industrial clients, only favorable reports are seemingly produced. Examples include Exponent arguing that dioxins do not cause cancer.”

      • In the 1930’s Weston Price did a 9 year worldwide study on the healthiest peoples compared to their sickly neighbors. In a nutshell he found the healthiest people ate the most meat/ saturated fats and the least adulterated foods, which at the time were canned or refined flours and sugar (1890’s industrial revolution allowed these to sneak into the diet). You can read the actual study and see the pictures comparing what really healthy person looks like compared to an underdeveloped and sickly one looks like, something we have gotten used to that we call genetics or individual variation. In fact, we are used to seeing sickly people such that we think it is normal. The book is Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price and google those terms and free PDF. Also research the archives of follow up info at westonaprice dot org.

        • If you can source and eat similar meat found in those countries in the 1930’s then I agree your chances of a long and healthy life are much better than the standard western diet. I am not sure that I can consistently do that so I choose to not eat red meat, only wild fish and occasional organic white meat

      • As an 83-year-old great grandfather with diagnoses of hypoglycemia, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, carbohydrate intolerance, etc., I’m thriving thanks to exercise, very little meat, some fish, lots of veggies, but no fruit, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, wheat or dairy. Life is still very much worth living. The internet and bloggers like Kresser and Perlmutter have helped me enormously to figure out how to cope with the various challenges that have come my way and it ain’t over yet!

  33. I also read the WHO report and made similar points in my recent blog post and podcast. As you noted, the evidence did not include randomized controlled trials (the gold standard) but was based on cohort and control-case studies, which lack the same scientific rigor. I emphasized that the results do not mean that red meat causes cancer but only that that some associations were made. The only statistically significant association (>95% confidence interval) was between the risk of colorectal cancer and people who ate at least 50 grams of processed red meat and 100 grams of unprocessed meat daily. To put this in perspective, 1 standard slice of raw bacon is about 1 oz. or about 28.35 grams.
    An important finding that seems to have been overlooked by the WHO working group was in a large case-control study (Preston-Martin, et al., 1996). Mothers who ate cured meat and vegetables, did not have a positive association with childhood brain tumors because the Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) inhibited the formation of N-nitroso-compounds (NOCs).
    My recommendations:

    1) Get daily protein from a variety of sources including grass-fed unprocessed meat, pastured chicken, wild-caught fish, free-range eggs, nuts, seeds and gluten-free grains if not strictly Paleo.

    2) Eat lots of vegetables and fruit with Vitamin C (use supplements if needed), which can inhibit the formation of NOCs.

    3) Don’t eat processed meat daily and in large amounts. Buy organic brands that are nitrate and nitrite free, which are precursors to NOCs.

    4) Do not pan-fry meat at high temperatures which may change the DNA of muscle meat and increase the risk of chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

    • For those people with limited budgets and or limited knowledge of the subject the safest option is to avoid meat and become a veggie and supp’ with a multi Vit B tablet. If you have the money and the interest then navigate your way through the meat trap. The problem is that expressing the opinion as some do that this WHO report is overplayed will mean that the former group of people will continue consuming meat and in particular processed meat. Sometimes its case of whats the most simplest and healthful message.

      • And who are you to advise people on what they should do, Mark? A big problem (as I see it) is that foods are constantly being labeled “bad”, until later on, they may be pronounced “good”. I remember when I was a young adult, we were told that avocados were “bad” because they were so high in fat. I continued to eat them because I liked them, and craved them (probably because my body needed the fat I wasn’t getting from my low fat diet). Several people told me I was risking my life by eating 1/2 avocado every day, maybe I would get heart disease. That was the prevailing wisdom at the time. And now, lo and behold, avocados are currently considered a “superfood”. These things keep changing, and epidemiological studies don’t tell you much.

        Also, it’s far better to get your B-vitamins from food, if you can, than from a pill.

        • I remember when I was a kid, my home and most others would have bowls of nuts,to be shelled.We always had plenty of them in the house.Then I remember the big news don’t eat nuts they’re bad for you,high in fat.

        • I am a guy with an interest in nutrition but with no vested interest in any drug companies, food industries or affiliations with any medical practices.

  34. No doubt your interpretation of these new findings are accurate as these studies predictably over-simplify the complex variables. And I am in no way a militant vegan or a vegan at all BUT I can’t ignore the larger picture of the toll meat production is playing in our current climate crises. Can we continue to pursue the optimal diet in a vacuum? at the risk of losing our life sustaining environment? What is a pro-paleo response to the inconvenient truth that meat production industry (as it necessarily exists to satisfy demand) has blood on its hands?
    I cant help thinking that some slap down, however inaccurate, might have a beneficial outcome.

    • Stop buying from the meat industry, buy from your local rancher or Weston Price organic producer. Read Alan Savory’s thoughts on how intense grazing IMPROVES the sustainability of the environment and water. I guess between a cow ruining the environment or a human ruining the environment I know which I’m more worried about. In fact I’d say its the human that ruined the cow and everything around it.

    • The influences that have led organizations like the UN and WHO to propulgate the fallacies of human-caused climate change and the immorality of the grassland-cow-man food chain are obviously self-serving interests which ignore the fact that God and nature are in control. The WHO report made me ask myself, which is worse, the woodland-deer-hunter food chain or the grassland-cow-man food chain. I concluded the answer is neither, since God created the prairies which supported the buffalo which supported the Native Americans for centuries. The white man just substituted the cow for the buffalo. At the end of the day, Nature (for those who chose not to give the Good Lord the credit directly), corrects itself and keeps things in balance. I trust in that, much more than the arrogance mankind displays in thinking he can unravel such a wonderfully complex Creation. So I say, which respect to diets, “To each his own, with moderation and variation for all!”

    • Joel Salatin has talked a lot about this also, in his articles and lectures. Here is one article:

      http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/can-animals-save-us/joel-salatin-how-to-eat-meat-and-respect-it-too
      A quote from the above article:

      “There’s no system in nature that does not have an animal component as a recycling agent. Doesn’t exist. Fruits and vegetables do best if there is some animal component with them—chickens or a side shed with rabbits. Manure is magic.

      Historically, herbivores—beef, lamb, goat—were every man’s meat because they could be raised on perennials.”

    • Many things that are posted on nutritionfacts.org are very dogmatic towards veganism, that’s why I actually don’t read or watch that stuff anymore. For example comparing meat etc with vegetables only covering saturated fats, cholesterol and a view vitamins, excluding b-vitamins, amino-profiles and other important things. Aswell as never covering lifestyle factors (at least I can’t remember it being included) like they do here – see this article with the tendencies of red meat eaters (smoking, alcohol, no movement,…) and studies not being able to explicitly point out the meat as being the main reason. And the overall belief that “one-size-fits-all”, meaning everybody should go vegetarian or vegan because it’s the best – which obviously isn’t true and excludes again important factos: season, genetics, origin, stress tolerance, stress amount, amount of exercise and other things. You may experienced yourself that your nutritional needs not only change with season (winter/summer – cold/warm weather), but also with age (baby, childhood, teenager, adult, elderly) and sometimes you want to eat more meat, sometimes less. Paul Chek makes some great points on nutrition aswell.

      Also, besides scientific studies and whatnot, you just have to look at our ancestors of whom many ate meat frequently (and actually did smoke, drugs and alcohol – though very infrequently and they had a very different quality) and they didn’t even knew about cancer – which, along with other “modern world diseases” came as soon as people started eating white flour, sugar, very processed food, drinking more alcohol, smoking more and things of that nature, along with all the chemicals.

      Though, what I miss in this article is the differentiation between organic and non-organic – which will obviously make a significant difference aswell.

      • I don’t think the difference between organic/non-organic or grass-fed/CAFO has much bearing in large epidemiological studies, because there aren’t sufficient numbers of people consuming organic/grass-fed meats exclusively to be able to make such a comparison.

        That said, I obviously think it makes a difference and I’ve written about that before: http://chriskresser.com/why-grass-fed-trumps-grain-fed/

    • Dr. Gregor is a militant vegan and all of his research suffers from confirmation bias. Meat is the cause of all illness in his view.

      • From a spiritual perspective, which I realize is not the topic of this article or any article in the “paleosphere”, consumption of meat is more likely to cause disease indirectly. We inject unnecessary suffering, sickness, and premature death into the world through our farming system and it comes back to us. This is simply how nature works. If we want to stop experiencing those things we need to stop putting them into the world ourselves. It takes more willpower and knowledge, but it is certainly possible to thrive on a plant-based diet, and a mass shift toward that would be a worthy experiment for humanity.

  35. That the Paleo diet is better than SAD is not saying much. There are better ways for humans to eat than either diet and that is proven in the five Blue Zones….especially in Okinawa where the young people are going more Western and so is the disease rate…
    Good animal protein in limited quantities has benefits but that is neither the quality nor the quantity that Paleo or SAD consumes. It is easier in the US to be almost vegan than to search for good aniimal protein. However, vegan also needs to be described at length and the only thing I will say here is concentrate on whole plant-based products and get most of your fat from nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olives.

  36. Great article, Chris. We need more common sense in science in the news.

    The article in the news is entirely speculation about some other studies, some of which are random controlled trials, but which have problems with the controls. Most of the studies referred to in that article, however, are observational, including meta-analyses which often mingle observational with experimental evidence (as well as apples with oranges). You can’t make recommendations based on observational data. If you do, you have to add two other recommendations, e.g. if you recommend that people should avoid obesity to avoid diabetes, then you also have to recommend that people with diabetes should avoid obesity, and that people in either/both categories probably have to avoid something else, as yet untested, that may be causing both.

    There is also the problem with “red meat” because it avoids testing the effect of the quality of the meat. Organically raised beef doesn’t have the pesticide load that beef raised on GMO food has. No matter how much fat the animal has, pesticides will be attracted to it and won’t break down very easily. They do not have to reach the stomach, either to be absorbed, since they can get directly into the body through the gingiva. If viruses and bacteria can do it, so can almost any chemical you eat or drink.

    The status of the bodies of the people in these studies is never tested for toxin load.

    Many years ago, the processed meat industry was chastised for using nitrosamines and similar cancer-causing chemicals as preservatives. It was found out that just adding citric acid to the meat helped break down the nitrosamines in our guts to harmless molecules. Most processors, but not all, add citric acid. However, many researchers just look at the ingredients in an item to be considered, and not what actually happens to those ingredients in real people.

    Take the criticism of grilled meat. Many researchers seem to forget about the high citric acid content of barbecue sauce when they say charred meat is dangerous, lumping together all meat that might get charred.

    They jump to conclusions about safety (e.g. arsenic in apricot pits) without doing any tests in a real environment. Now, it seems that the National Cancer Institute, desperate to find a cure for cancer because of its complete failure in that realm, are turning to laetrile (in apricot pits), despite their criticism of people running to Mexico to get it in years past.

    • Thank you Chris for this very timely articl. I’ve been hearing about a book called proteinaholic just this week and thinking about studying the research behind it after eating proteins and healthy fats successfully for five years. I am tending my gut biomedical with homemade kefir and eating fresh fruits and veges, too. So you dispelled my confusion with this article. Thank you.

    • Common sense found in well rounded conclusions always disappears in these types of study reviews.

      It’s maddening as people continue to lean into higher grin consumption and an unbalanced diet higher in carbs/sugar because meat is “unhealthy”.

      Thank you Martha for the citric acid info!

  37. I was making a ‘blt’ today with uncured bacon, organic tomatoes, baby kale, avocado mayo, and fresh avocado in a chia wrap. My roommate saw the bacon and said ‘they just found out processed and red meats cause cancer’. I explained most of the ‘studies’ involve a set up something like this: obese people eating meat lovers pizza, and researchers concluding it was the meat and nothing else that must be the culprit of their health issues.

  38. We – the people seeking good health – need to be more concerned about the research methods than the persuasion of the arguments. Case studies are just that – particular cases. Surveys are strife with placebos. And researchers themselves go into experiments with their own biases. It will never be full proof.

  39. Will you ever get it? Living is dangerous to your health, and sitting on your duff at the computer, watching Tv and gorging on potato chips, dip, pizza, and McNuggets will only accelerate you ultimate demise. Oh, you’ll get adult onset diabetes b4 that final day comes.
    There is Nothing wrong with food, there is however, a mountain of wrong with how you process it because of your lazy western lifestyle.
    Meat causing cancer is as preposterous as the naive people that buy into the stupidity of such a conclusion.
    I’m sure you remember when butter and eggs were the incarnation of the devil.
    Go on a 100 mile bike ride or 20 mile road run, you’ll then have a new appreciation of the true function of food, and so will your metabolism.
    Can’t run, can’t bike you say, exercise is too hard?
    “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours”

    Politically incorrect (but it doesn’t change reality)

    • Gee, I wish I had time to go on a bike ride in my lazy western lifestyle…I guess I’m too busy hand pulling weeds out of a thousand acres so us lazy westerners can have an organic crop. Then growing a two acre garden and freezing and canning as much in my “free time”. And then in the winter I’m lazing around on my butt shoveling snow, fixing tractors and so forth. I wish I had time to prance around in tights.

      • I don’t think the comment is meant to actually someone like you, but the typical American in general…..you’re far from that.

    • Exercising till you are blue in the face does not make up for diet. Studies have proven that in many ways and you might also look up Dr Fixx, the marathon runner that died of a heart attack at an early age due to clogged arteries according to the autopsy report.
      Consuming a whole plant-based diet has been shown to be better for your body than many hours of weekly exercise.

  40. Interesting article but…

    My impression of the literature is that processed meat is the issue. You just lumped red and processed meat together. There is a case for thinking that processed meat is much worse than (organic, grass-fed ) red meat as such.
    Moreover, I am pretty sure cavemen did not eat salami preserved with huge amounts of salt, nitrites and nitrates?

    • What did they test subjects eat with the meat????? If they ate tons of saturated fats and lots of sugar products there’s no way you can have an accurate analysis!! Now if all they ate was “meat products” (and nothing else) then the results might have some meaning.
      Organic or grass fed makes no difference if you don’t isolate the culprit!!

      treblig

    • I did not lump them together, but I covered both. The Obesity Reviews critique that I focused on in the article was looking at the relationship between processed and cured meats and cancer and found the evidence lacking.

    • There is a big difference between the mass produced processed meats we buy here in the states and (I hope) the processed meats that Europeans and others have produced for centuries. Yes, can’t help but feel that most of what we buy is not naturally cured but is processed with preservatives as you pointed out. I do not think that the WHO can lump all processed meats from various regions of the planet in the same bucket.

  41. Warning: consuming red meat may lead to health and longevity.

    longevity may be a key risk factor for cancer , heart attack and death.

  42. What about the feed additive, ractopamine, which remains in large amounts in the cafo meat, especially pork? Isn’t that harmful too?

    Or are you conclusions just based upon organic meats.

  43. I am getting really disheartened. I have read so much literature on the paleo and healthy and raw eating. I follow some of the best out there on supplements and health (you, Mark Sanders, etc.). But every time I turn around, something new causes cancer or we really should not be taking that supplement or doing that exercise.
    It is ridiculous! How do I know where to go? I feel like chucking all my supplements and health books and just eat as healthy as I can and so be it. Advice?

      • I think the biggest risk factor for cancer is being sick in the first place. We obsess about what causes cancer, with new carcinogens being published every month in some biased article. Although there are many factors that can contribute to the development of cancer, I think cell signalling failure is fundamental. Our bodies cause programmed cell death (apoptosis) of cancerous cells EVERY DAY. When the signalling fails, you get unchecked growth and a tumour develops. Hmmm…what causes cell signalling failure? Well, inflammation and insulin resistance are the latest contenders. What causes insulin resistance? It’s most likely that it’s INFLAMMATION. What about genetics? Just because you carry a gene associated with cancer doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer because of the fantastical field of EPIGENETICS. Go look it up. Cancer is not a death sentence anymore.
        Inflammation and insulin resistance ARE death sentences. And how do we control those? Through looking after our gut microbiome i.e. from following the diet that makes us thrive as INDIVIDUALS.

  44. Just wondering how the gene variant known as “rs4143094″ plays into all this. Apparently it significantly increases risk of developing colon cancer by preventing detection of aberrant colon cancer cells (by the immune system) and estimated that more than 1/3 of our population has it.

    Perhaps the high incidence is why the WHO came out with that report?

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267954.php

  45. Please read the IARC (department of WHO that did the study) Q&A sheet on the study as it renders a lot of this article unnecessary:

    http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/Monographs-Q&A_Vol114.pdf

    Particularly:

    Q. Red meat was classified as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans. What does this mean exactly?
    A. In the case of red meat, the classification is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence. Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (technically termed chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out.
    Q. Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. What does this mean?
    A. This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans. In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer. Q. Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). Tobacco smoking and asbestos are also both classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). Does it mean that consumption of processed meat is as carcinogenic as tobacco smoking and asbestos?
    A. No, processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.

    • Indeed. And the increased risk is stated as about 20%

      I like meat and would like to keep eating it (as sustainably as possible) if it’s healthy for me, or can be made healthy for me, so I dug more deeply after reading about the WHO study.

      These are some interesting, related articles about *how* red meat increases cancer-risk and how to mitigate it:
      http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Denis_Corpet/publication/51113149_Red_meat_and_colon_cancer_should_we_become_vegetarians_or_can_we_make_meat_safer/links/00b495188aeab5ef74000000.pdf
      and
      http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/75/5/870.long (experimental mouse study to determine which elements of red meat lead to tumours)

      For me, there are still questions about beef vs other meat, should we increase calcium intake with some red meat meals (since it stops the iron from being absorbed) and for processed meats, questions about preserving methods. For example, preserving with rooibos (red tea) seems to counteract most issues: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Antonella_DALLE_ZOTTE/publication/236624045_First_evaluation_of_unfermented_and_fermented_rooibos_%28Aspalathus_linearis%29_in_preventing_lipid_oxidation_in_meat_products/links/0c9605187a40340d77000000.pdf

      • Also “The role of red and processed meat in colorectal cancer development: a perspective” (excellent overview): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174014000564?np=y
        “…Meat consumption may be associated with an increased risk of CRC in ‘Western’ food cultures. This may be due to a real cause-and-effect relationship but it should be kept in mind that associations may suffer from confounding effects. Meat contains a number of compounds of nutritional benefit and may not be carcinogenic as such but rather, when consumed in very high amounts, may result in an imbalanced diet and thereby increase the risk of developing CRC. These imbalances may likely result from lack of antagonistic agents, such as calcium or phytochemicals, to counteract cytotoxic and mutagenic products that result from interactions of heme with an unfavorable gut environment. Products formed in cured or heated meats may further enhance such damage. ..

    • It doesn’t render the article unnecessary, because less than 1% of people will read the actual report. Less than a few % will even read the full media stories on the report. The vast majority will just read the headline and byline.

      • Chris, your blog post focuses almost exclusively on red meat whereas the IARC report focuses on processed meat and has red meat in a completely different carcinogen Group. The IARC says that there is “limited evidence” to support that red meat is a carcinogen. So the whole tone (and title) of your article is misleading.

        Then your post maintains the popular fallacy that by putting two items in the same Group that implies they have the same risk level which is completely false. Being in the same group simply means they have the same degree of confidence about there being a positive correlation between exposure and cancer. Two items can have a radically different degree of risk and still logically be in the same Group.

        The quote at the end from the meat industry (really, they are going to be biased about this?) is ridiculous in trying to mock the IARC’s classification of carcinogens. Everyone knows that excessive exposure to sunlight leads to skin cancer. Air pollution causes lung cancer, etc…

        So, your article is rendered unnecessary not because of redundancy with the IARC report, but because of its inaccuracies.

        Someone sent me a link to your post because they thought it was educational but it’s completely lacking in critical thinking and integrity.

  46. Sad that you are still ignoring the fact that eating meat makes your body a graveyard. Meat production and consumption is bad for the planet – uses more resources per person, contributes to water pollution, deforestation and global warming. Not to mention the impact on your Karma and personal desensitisation to the suffering of living beings. The possibility that it may also contribute to cancer risks makes me wonder how long people will cling to their meat addictions….

      • that could explain why they lived only 30-40 years. Seriously though, early cavemen lived on more than meat. Take a university class on the subject.

        If your religious and feel the earth is only 6000 years old and the “garden” was filled with fruits and vegetables.

        • I’m sure early man lived on more than just “meat”!! But meat was the primary source of food/sustenance. Researchers have found that the cave man’s brain was only able to develop because of protein intake. That’s is not my opinion…it’s accepted fact. Without meat the cave man’s brain would not have been able to develop substantially. Because of protein (meat) our brains were able to develop more than other species. I’m not very religious so that is not an issue. My point is that cave men/women only lived for 40 (or so) years because life was very difficult and there were other creatures who ATE man!!

          treblig

          • Based on what I’ve read, the human brain grew in size due to higher calories, and there are many high calorie food that is not meat, so I don’t need to eat meat.

      • More advanced studies show people with more than just meat and bones in their caves and stomachs. How is a grain meant to last millions of years? You’re logic is absent

  47. Here is what is written about this study on WHO’s own website:
    Processed meat causes increased risk of bowel cancer, whil for red meat there is no causation found, only a WEAK ASSOCIATION – and LIMITED EVIDENCE – meaning it can very well be other causal factors. http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/Monographs-Q&A_Vol114.pdf

    BBC’s comment on the same international study on red meat and processed meat noticed that there is a 18% increased risk of bowel cancer – NOT 18% risk of bowel cancer, only 18% INCREASED risk. This means for UK for instance where there is a 6% life time risk (prevalence) of bowel cancer. 18% increased risk of 6% means 7 % – that is, if 100 people eat 2 slices of bacon every day for their whole life, 7 of these hundred instead of 6 would get bowel cancer – the real risk of eating processed red meat (2 slices of bacon) would be 1%. 99 of 100 would eat the bacon and not get bowel cancer! http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34615621

  48. Thanks Chris, this is a very good round-up of a subject you know well.
    I’d like to add a few things – we do have some information about the difference between pastured and CACO meat because in Europe most red meat is still pastured, and in the huge EPIC study red meat up to 160g a day wasn’t associated with cancer (or any) mortality at all.

    Though there was a weak association above 160g a day, which is still plenty of (cooked) meat, less than 1% of the population was eating this much.
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/63

    However, who eats lots of red meat? Farmers and blue collar workers. Who eats lots of processed meat? Blue collar workers – factory workers, truck drivers, cleaners and so on.
    All these people are exposed to carcinogens at a higher level than are clerical workers and academics who eat less meat.
    You don’t find many vegetarians in the dirty jobs.
    Dust-borne carcinogens are associated with colon cancer because the dust is swallowed when it’s brought out of the lungs or nasal cavity.
    No diet and cancer study I know of has controlled for workplace and environmental carcinogen exposure.
    Hyperinsulinaemia, low HDL and other signs of metabolic disease and nutrient deficiency are strongly associated with colon cancer. These can be reversed by the LCHF diet or paleo diet even (maybe especially if) if it contains red meat.

    http://profgrant.com/2015/10/28/red-meat-processed-meat-and-cancer-how-strong-is-the-evidence/

    • Um, hi, I eat lots of red meat. I have a physics degree and worked as an engineering manager at Intel. My dad’s an attorney. My brother’s an attorney. My other brother is an engineer. My sister is also an engineer. And my other sister is a physician. And we all eat red meat. And we all eat *grassfed* red meat, not conventional meat. And we all eat lots of fruits and vegetables. And all of us would be described by anyone as “slender” and we are all in good health. Your categorization of all red meat eaters as uneducated people in high-exposure jobs is biased and I suspect highly inaccurate. I know lots of people on a Paleo diet, all of them eating lots of red meat, and I would call all of them well-educated and in low- risk jobs, and generally physically active and in good health. Not all meat is created equal. Grassfed meats, minimally processed, are a very different product from conventionally-fed, conventionally-processed meats, and I’m not aware of any credible study that takes this important fact into its experimental design.

    • Perhaps, in context, this group of meat eaters were a disproportionately large part of this WHO study. No accounting for those that eat from organic, grass-fed sources and the effect of a less toxic load in regards.

  49. I’m confused. The most recent reports from WHO seemed to be about eating CURED meats, not red meat in general. I would still like to know Chris’ take on this report. Do you agree with WHO that cured meats like bacon are harmful?

    • Tricia, that’s the very question I was addressing in this article. The Obesity Reviews study I pulled from was looking at that question specifically.

  50. I love how everyone forgets about the Swiss. I lived and worked in Switzerland and they eat meat at every meal, usually a few ounces, along with lots of dairy and some fruit and vegetable. They do not enrich their grains. Meat servings were about 2-3 ounces. They have one of the longest life spans. Their beef is grass fed as far as I know. As for browning meat I remember learning about how it makes pyrolisis products back when i was studying food science (manufacturing, not nutrition) back in the 80’s during our protein chemistry class and how they are supposed to be carcinogenic. I decided at the time to keep browning my meat because flavor contributes to my quality of life and I would rather live a shorter life and eat tastier food. Relaxation and enjoyment are important for health too. In the same class we learned about how grain fed to cattle causes the organs to break down and they have to stop feeding it to the cattle soon enough to not kill the animals before slaughter. That is when I stopped eating grain fed beef. We also learned about the hormones and antibiotics in the feed before it was public knowledge. I have been eating grass fed beef ever since as well as organic chicken and pork. Eating sick animals cannot be good for us. Most of the professors in the food science department ate a whole food diet, but the nutrition people ate the junk. Kind of funny to me.

  51. If meat can be classified as a carcinogen, the government can sue the meat producers/companies for trying to enhance their products in order to attract consumers. Prices will rise due to the lawsuits and then government will start increasing taxes on these products because they will “kill you”. This is what happened to the tobacco industry.

  52. Chris,
    You mentioned Bacteroides as being harmful and connected to gastrointestinal tumors. They are included in the ingredients list of PRESCRIPT ASSIST. That would make me believe that probiotic is not safe to take. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • The vast majority of evidence suggests Bacteroides are beneficial and associated with lean phenotype in western populations.

  53. According to Dr Joel Wallach and Dr Peter Glidden (and many others) it’s not the meats themselves that is the problem, it’s what’s in them and how they are cooked. The preservatives (nitrates/nitrites) and the charring of the meats and fats turns into a cancer causing agent call Acrylamide.

    • Acrylimides form from hi-temp cooked starches, such as french fries. Heterocylcic chemicals form from hi-temp cooked meats, particularly red meat.

  54. Here’s the thing the WHO researchers missed, that is missing from the news media conversations, and I thought you would have mentioned it, Chris…no matter. Here it is:

    Most processed and cured meats in the US use either sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate as a preservative. Nitrates, in the gut, convert to nitrites, and nitrites, we know, are carcinogenic.

    Yes, the healthy user bias is real, and probably more real in folks who eat a lot of processed meat, but I can’t help but wonder if consistent intake of nitrates (=nitrites in the gut), helps to strengthen the correlation between processed meat and cancer.

      • I soak my bacon in water for about 45 minutes before I cook it to remove as much salt as possible. I wonder if any of the nitrites/nitrates or preservatives leach out during the soak??? Also, I posted earlier this morning on the article and it hasn’t shown up at all???

        treblig

      • Chris, I’ve read your article about nitrites. But I’m wondering about the other chemicals that go along with the nitrites; sodium erythorbate and sodium phosphate. My choice at the super market is to buy uncured or completely conventional with all three preservatives. We could by local bacon from a ranch nearby which only uses sodium nitrite, but we would have to eat less bacon as it’s more expensive. It’s the only type of protein my son will eat at breakfast, so I’ve opted for uncured bacon from the grocery store in order to balance his diet with enough protein and fat.

  55. Chris, do you think it is hard to perform unbiased reviews of the literature because you are so emotionally connected to the “paleo” lifestyle? Would you be willing to advocate a non-paleo approach if the literature and your experiences showed a better dietary paradigm?
    I ask these questions to pose just a challenge…and a consideration. Personally, it was very difficult for me as a health care practitioner to change long held beliefs about what I was eating, but I have done so. And it turned out ok, I think my clients respect me more for being willing to carefully do so. Concepts like paleo are fads in thinking and I do think you have super-intelligence and may change when your thinking changes. So please know it’s OK to change as research and experiences change in your practice (if they do/did in the future). Hope this helps, blessings, jill

    • Jill you are spot on. I liked Chris for a while, but the only unbiased nutrition advice I have found is Examine.com’s work. Chris and the rest of the paleosphere has an identity now. There is literally no study that can come out that will change all of these gurus minds. They make too much money selling supplements and books, etc. It is sad really. There will always be some problem in the opposing research to their paradigm, while they blindly accept every study that even hints that some aspect of paleo is correct. It is impossible to remain 100% objective when your identity is in 1 diet camp. Chris is no different from the 30 bananas a day fool.

    • I have always been willing to change my mind and position as the evidence changes. If you’ve followed my work for any length of time, there are many examples of that. Thus far, there is no research I’ve seen that convinces me that a nutrient-dense, real-foods diet is anything but beneficial.

  56. Great article! I’ve been a vegan, vegetarian and on a Paleo diet. Staying healthy for me means keeping my micro biome healthy, exercise and LOW or NO carbs – specifically processed flour, bread, pasta, etc. Great stat comparisons re: bacon vs cigarettes, thanks for weighing the significance of those studies. BTW, I can easily give up meat, I’ve been a vegan, I simply found I do far better eating meat than not.

  57. The major reason not to eat meat is that it is cruel. Factory farms utilize brutal and heart-breaking methods to prepare cows/pigs/chickens, etc. for slaughter.

    In addition, animals have as much right to live as humans do.

  58. Everyone in the medical profession needs to visit the ‘Spurious Correlations’ website, tylervigen.com at least once a month.

    As well as a good laugh, it might give them sense of caution in assuming that correlation implies causation. e.g.
    ‘Per capita cheese consumption’ correlates with ‘the number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets’ 🙂

    Who knew, go figure again !

  59. There does seem to be an annual campaign to spread disinformation about the “dangers” of eating red meat, almost always accompanied by a push to replace meat with other protein sources (as if protein were the only reason to eat meat). As if on cue, a chorus of voices is touting vegetarian, vegan, and now “plant-based” diets.

    Just yesterday, I heard a certain well-known doctor/author promoting a vegan diet on a public radio show. He made statements like (paraphrasing) ‘on average vegans are the healthiest people you will find.’ He urged people to replace red meat (and all meat) with plant-based meat substitutes, describing them as a technology that has made great advances. Here’s the problem with that: people are wrongly using this report to advocate replacing a whole food (meat) with a highly processed one (meat substitutes). The new landscape of meat substitutes include “frankenfood” moniker-worthy ingredients such as textured vegetable protein, typically made from soy that has been subjected to an extrusion process that uses high amounts of mechanical and thermal stress to achieve a texture that is palatable.

    What happens to the nutritional compounds in plant foods when they are subjected to these modern food-science processes? Have the effects of these ingredients on human biology been studied by people not tied to the food industry? Doubtful in any meaningful capacity. Worse, I think a lot of these processes are hidden from consumers, who simply see agricultural ingredients like wheat or soy in the ingredients listing, and don’t realize what those ingredients were put through to look, feel, and taste like meat. But they are supposed to replace a whole food like meat, that humans have been eating for countless generations?

    Yes, there are risk factors that go along with meat that we need address. First and foremost is that factory farmed animals make up the overwhelming majority of our food supply. Chris has addressed this and other issues over the years better than I can ever hope to. Does the WHO report take into account the differences between factory farmed meat and traditionally raised meat? And do the people using this incomplete report to tout vegan diets talk about the significant nutritional deficiencies people can face when eliminating all animal food sources? The guy on the radio yesterday didn’t mention either of those things. There was also no discussion of how small the increase in absolute risk is, how it can easily be outweighed by lifestyle factors, and there were misleading statements of equivalence to tobacco risk. I suspect there is a lot of misinformation being spread around right now that purports to be proven by the WHO report, and that does a disservice to public health.

  60. Hey Chris, ever since the WHO report came out I have been waiting for your response so I would have something easy to refer folks to. I am more and more convinced that vegetable/fiber consumption is the missing piece in any conversation about health. For people with other high risk factors for prostate cancer, however, I would probably focus a little more on getting them to eat more nutrient dense options and less bacon.

    I also would say that I advocate for a rather moderate consumption of meat compared to a lot of paleo dieters I see on IG, etc. I eat it often, but in much smaller servings than the typical american 8 oz steak. I probably got about 2 oz in the chili I ate for lunch, along with tons of butternut, kale, tomatoes, and bone broth.

    It seems hard for many black and white thinkers to wrap their heads around it, but it seems completely possible that no red meat versus lots of red meat is just the wrong question to be asking.

    • I agree Sarah.

      Unless recovering from hypoglycemia, lots of vegetables along with small amounts of (clean, sustainable) meat works well for me and my family. My son does fine on more carbs than my daughter and I, but we all do well with the basic “lots of veg, small amounts of fruit, nuts and meat/protein foods”.

  61. I recently saw the documentary Cowspiracy which exposed the significant effect that the meat industry is having on the environment. They suggested that eating meat, or fish for that matter, will not be sustainable for the planet due to the massive environmental damage that it’s causing; more than any other pollutant or environmentally-damaging practice out there. I wonder if these anti-red meat studies/campaigns have anything to do with this – trying to get people to limit their consumption of red meat from a health standpoint vs blatantly saying that it’s an environmental issue.

    I can’t ever imagine being a vegan but the documentary made some interesting points, particularly on sustainable grassfed-type farming and dairy/eggs, that have me thinking on possibly reducing my consumption of animal products. I eat a moderate amount of grassfed meats and cold water fish, maybe 4-6 times per week, and it has improved my health so I cringe at the fact of reducing that amount now, for environmental reasons.

    Anyways, love the posts Chris! Maybe you can debunk this issue! 🙂

    • 4-6 times per week definitely sounds moderate, and supporting more sustainable farms means I think you are doing completely fine from an ethical perspective. I think it is important to balance eating the healthiest diet for you and the healthiest diet for the planet, and thankfully completely vegan agriculture is not necessarily the most sustainable solution. One book I found helpful in my thought process around this is called “Meat: A Benign Extravagance.”

      Another thing I try to remember is the importance of political change, not just personal–no matter what you eat, who you elect and the policies you support make a much bigger difference to the environment. I couldn’t function even on a well-planned vegan diet, and I don’t believe I have a moral imperative to stay sick–unless we also have a moral imperative to commit suicide to prevent overpopulation.

      I do wish more people in the paleo community were talking about being participants in a sustainable ecosystem. If all of the folks advocating a paleo lifestyle could put a little energy into replacing big grain subsidies with some vegetable subsidies, think what a difference we could make!

      • Sarah: those are good points. Another book that I found interesting was “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Kieth- (I think that’s her name?) She also explains why mono-crops are NOT a good solution for the environment, and how it destroys whole ecosystems. Frankly, I think some of this “sustainability” talk is a bit of brainwashing on the part of certain big companies (like Monsanto) to “guilt” us into eating their way!

        Based on all I’ve heard and read, it seems like small farms, with both plants and animals (pastured of course), and “slow food” are the best options, not only for health but for sustainability.

  62. Is this citing all beef from all sources, or are there any distinctions between pastured raised/grass-finished vs. the typical CAFO beef that we know to be garbage anyway? Just curious, since no delineation is mentioned.

    • If it was the difference between CAFO meat and grass-fed that made the difference, I think chicken would have shown up as a potential carcinogen too, because the biggest difference is the fatty acid profile (higher omega-6 to 3 ratio in both beef and chicken that are fed grains.)

    • Mike,
      I basically asked almost the same question in the comments about one minute later than you. Frustrating when no effort is made to distinguish the CAFO beef from the grass-fed/grass-finished organic beef…

    • most people eat CAFO meat. So on a aggregate basis I suspect making the distinction between CAFO and organic in the study would produce little difference. But you are right, it would be interesting to see a study looking at different disease rates between organic and CAFO eaters.

  63. Diversity of healthy unprocessed foods are a great approach to keeping your body working the way it should. Too much of any one thing, be it healthy or not, is never ideal…

    Just eat real food 🙂

  64. Chris, your article is really only saying that we cannot be sure that meat is the main contributor to cancer when looking at meat eaters. This is true but what we can say is that populations that do not eat meat have much lower incidence of cancer and heart disease. Now faced with your argument that PERHAPS meat is not the culprit in these studies versus an examination of populations that do not get high rates of disease I would plump for the latter even if by adopting their diet I am throwing out meat when I PERHAPS need not. Many people will read this and see it as an endorsement of meat which I think is a risky path to take.

    • Do you think that maybe the populations of people that are studied that do not eat meat and have a lower incident of cancer is because this population of people is generally more health conscience? That they live their lives as a whole in a healthier way than the average American eating meat? I do not think by any stretch that meat causes cancer. I do think that many meat eaters do not source quality meats, do not cook it correctly (aka: burning/charring), and perhaps generally do not live a health lifestyle overall. I think that the results are skewed by the studied population’s other lifestyle factors that contribute to their cancer risks.

      • Hi Candice, you may well ‘think’ this to be true but personally I would not spend a lifetime eating red meat, albeit with other good health habits, to find out whether meat is a contributing factor or not. I do not mind possibly throwing a few babies out with the bath water if bottom line I live longer. The problem with Chris’s article is that he cannot prove that meat is harmless any more than the the WHO can categorically prove that its harmful. With regard to grass fed meats posted by another poster I agree that they may well be more healthful but most people are unable to access them confidently so again my advice would be to skip meat and stop rolling the dice.

        • That is an interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing. I understand your point as to proof of what does what or what is responsible for what in our bodies. I do think the quality/source of meats matter. And I also think that red meat provides healthy nutrients that is more difficult to obtain an absorb from other sources. But, that is just my opinion. I eat red meats along with every other kind of meat. I have heard several people say that after eating read meat after being vegans for a long time their health improved. That is neither here nor there…I think for now I’ll keep my babies and the bathwater. I wish to you good health and longevity! 🙂

          • I think you are correct Candice. I believe eating like our ancestors is better for us. I also however, have come to the conclusion that as far as eating Paleo is concerned some indigenous populations ate a 95% protein diet and other populations ate a 85% vegetarian diet so lets not assume that we all need to eat diets dominated by a diet of meat or poultry. However, let me emphasize that I do eat red meat, poultry, salmon, sardines, pork etc….but also try to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit while limiting my intake of breads and potatoes (diabetes runs in my family) so that I maintain healthy blood sugar levels. I appreciate your sincere and thoughtful comments.

        • Mark,
          First of all, your argument is non-sensical, and could just as well be applied to ANY food group. Humans are OMNIVORES, and as such, have the capacity to eat meat, as well as other food sources. As for “healthiest” populations, for the UMPTEENTH time, they were the Inuit, the Maasai, and the Hunzas, until we introduced crap food to them…. The Inuit and Maasai diets were PREDOMINENTLY animal in nature.

    • Marc, if you have read Chris’s book “The Paleo Cure” he breaks down the nutrient density of red meat (grass fed) just to prove how beneficial it actually is for you.

    • I believe cancer is a far more complicated disease than many realize. And I think it’s very difficult to “tease out” one factor from epidemiological studies that may or may not contribute to it- (not to mention the whole “correlation doesn’t equal causation” issue). I’ve read a lot on the subject, and frankly, I don’t think anyone really knows for sure what causes cancer in the first place. I ate a mostly plant based diet for many years- (a so-called “healthy” diet, no junk food), only to get cancer. People are naive if they think (like I used to) that a vegan diet will “save them from cancer”, but unfortunately, this is the message the media puts out. I now eat a Paleo style diet, along with bacon and egg every day. And I feel much healthier than I ever did before! (And 6 years cancer free). I have learned from my experience that quality of life in the present is most important; so, I won’t be changing my diet any time soon.

  65. Many thanks, Chris, for another thoughtful, balanced report. For all our sakes, let’s hope obstreperous readers will refrain from leaving a bunch of negative comments here.

    • Opposing or even challenging points of view are not negative any more than taking an opposing view to big Pharma could be classed as negative. I find lively contrary debates the more illuminating but sadly many people, perhaps not you, tend to find it threatening even when conducted in a polite and civil manner. Lets not forget that we ended up in this god awful medical mess because Doctors are not allowed to question the conventional medical system at least not without consequences.

  66. Thank you! All these articles circulating on FB about meat and cancer are driving me crazy! Just a little knowledge about history and a little bit of common sense goes a long way. Anyway, I posted your article on my FB page and as a response to everyone’s questions and other articles saying meat causes cancer.

  67. Wow!! As per usual excellent post Chris.
    On the world cancer foundation to 20 list of countries with highest rate for colon cancer, 14 of them are not high meat consumers , not even Argentina is on the list. This again clearly contradics what WHO is saying.
    Looking at markers of inflammation red meat improves homocysteine levels and needles to say glucose levels.
    Excellent job the WHO did on creating more confusion in the arena of nutrition.
    Thanks again for the great work Chris!!

    • Yes, I noticed this too. On the list I saw, the 2nd highest percentage of colon cancer was found in Japanese men. Um, hello? Aren’t these the people that are always touted as eating a “mostly healthy, plant based diet?” (Not that I believe that either; I thought they ate lots of fish and rice too). And overall, a woman’s chance of getting colon cancer was quite low.

  68. I fully believe that a high-fiber diet will allow the body to better handle all toxins, if there are dangers to cured meats or even red meat, resistant starch is shown to overcome those dangers.

    There is a simple solution! A couple spoonfuls of raw potato starch!

    Don’t like the thought of eating potato starch? There’s always green bananas, oatmeal, and inulin to boost fiber intake.

    • I agree Tim!! Thanks for pointing that out!! I use potato starch. It’s actually tasteless to me. That and oatmeal and it makes a difference I can feel that clearly don’t need a complex study to tell me otherwise.

      I think we need more DOABLE information like this and less nitpicking.

      We’re here for health yes of course — but most of us also believe in balancing quality of life, along with what just plain and simple pleases the natural senses of the body too. The body knows what it wants and I believe it’s different in different people.

      I also know so many healthy people who micro analyze every little ingredient who don’t appear very vibrant, healthy, happy at all either!!

      During the summer, there’s nothing like the smell of a BBQ here and there!
      Give me a break about the charred!
      And it’s very difficult to “always” have “grass fed” where I’m from its very difficult to always have access. I’m sure many others are in the same boat.

      And yes Dr Jeff. My grandmother also lived very healthy and vibrant until 92. Ate plenty of bacon, cooked eggs, in bacon grease, never worried about a hamburger, or the bun.

      She walked everyday outside. That’s it.

      I think the bun also didn’t bother her because in her time the bakers let their bread rise long enough to digest the gluten.

  69. I am not a scientist, and I can’t spout statistics, but I can tell you that life is a terminal condition.

    It has also been my experience that the longer we extend human lives the more incidents of cancer you will find regardless of eating habits.

    I think we need to quite micromanaging the cancer issue and look at the bigger picture. if you scrutinize just about anything hard enough you will find a correlation to cancer. correlation is NOT cause.

  70. Thanks for the clarity, which is totally missing from the main stream media. My first reaction was that most red meat was from factory farmed cattle who have been pumped up with antibiotics and GMO grain feeds and whose meat is therefore probably loaded with glyphosate residues. Organic, pasture fed meats, such as I try to eat, might have an entirely different impact.

  71. What is interesting to me, is the assumption that red meat from non organic, GMO feed lot fed cattle is healthy to begin with. A study I would like to see (and probably never will) is a comparison between organic pasture raised beef and conventionally raised beef in terms of what happens to the micro biome etc.

    • Hi Karen,

      The study you are looking for might be difficult to find, but if you just assume that non-organic feed lots are feeding primarily glyphosate treated grain products, then you can use studies that show the effect of glyphosate on the human gut microbiome, since the chemical persists, and is carried into the human from the cattle that ingest the grain products. Here’s just one that thoroughly discusses damage to the human body from food-borne glyphosate, both via damage to the gut microbial population and directly.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/

      The same authors have a paper on just the alteration of the gut micriobiome, but the following is only the abstract of that document:

      http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

      You might search just for other works by either of these authors, as they focus heavily on the effects of glyphosate on the deteriorating human condition.

  72. Another factor possibly involved with the red meat and cancer incidence correlation revolves around the Neu5Gc molecule. Neu5Gc is synthesized in almost all other mammals, but not in humans. Red meat and dairy are our prime sources of Neu5Gc. When we ingest it, we incorporate it into tissue. But since we don’t make this molecule, we are capable of producing antibodies against it.

    The study of this possible cause of cancer is in its infancy but may eventually turn us more strongly against red meat (and dairy).

    http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fonc.2014.00033/full

  73. I’m glad to see this discussion opened up here Chris. I’m sure your statements will bring in a lot of additional information from your informed readers and we’ll gain much more from their input.

    For instance, I would like to add to your statement “…that certain species of bacteria were higher in populations with high colon cancer risk…” and following that “…patients with cancer had significant elevations of Bacteroides/Prevotella (both species that are recognized as potentially harmful) when compared to the control group…”

    I agree with your conclusions that “We still have a lot to learn about the influence of the microbiome….” and “…a patient with a dysbiotic (i.e., compromised) microbiome may be at increased risk for cancer if he or she consumes high amounts of either fresh or processed red meat. But a patient with a normal, healthy microbiome may not be.”

    For example, Someone eating a lot of red meat may, on average, also be one who eats far too little fiber, and it’s the lack of fiber that causes the dysbiotic microbiome rather then the red meat.

    But my reason for wanting to add to your statement “…patients with cancer had significant elevations of Bacteroides/Prevotella ” is just to strongly defend the species of these two Genera, as your statements imply that “elevation of numbers” is bad, and that may imply that “Any number over a bare minimum is a cause for worry.” I don’t want the reader to come away with the assumption that Bacteroides, for example, are doing the human body a disservice by residing in the gut.

    From my studies, Bacteroides, and to a lesser degree, Prevotella are two very important symbiotic genera in the human gut. On average, Bacteroides species comprise usually about 25% of our gut microbiome and continually engage not just in feeding us saturated fats they derive from plant fiber we eat, but also produce vitamins and interact continually with our gut to provide mucosal barrier fortification and even modulation of a variety of host genes.

    More here:

    http://cmr.asm.org/content/20/4/593.full

    So I would liken your appropriate comment about elevated numbers correlating to cancer incidence as being something like relating elevated water in a reservoir to the likelihood of a broken dam. In that case, lest one concludes that any water is a bad thing for a reservoir, it’s better to remind ourselves that generally we want a fairly ample supply of water behind a dam. We just don’t want an excess that can destroy the dam.

    So for the bacteria, I wish to emphasize that we all, generally, have approximately a full pound of Bacteriodes species in our gut. If one reads the link I provided though, it is made clear that one species of Bacteriodes, B. fragilis, is very virulent. It causes little problem in the gut, partly because it constitutes just .5% of the total bacterial load, and partly because it behaves at commensally there. But once inside the body, or on the skin, this species can cause great problems. And this is just to show that rather than making sweeping assumptions about our microbiome, based on a fact here and there, we are better served by your advice to just eat whole, nutrient dense foods in portions and proportions as our grandparents did, and not worry so much about the many causes of bowel cancer. And why worry about trying to micro-manage our microbiome? To a large degree that’s out of our hands.

  74. I totally agree with the majority of what has been stated. I used to have numerous bowel problems, diverticulitis being one, that have disappeared ever since I started avoiding sugar and carbs. Even when I accidentally eat a bad piece of fish, which gives me diarrhea, I very quickly rebound because (I think) there are no carbs or sugar for the bad bacteria to survive. In the past (before low carb/low sugar) I would have diarrhea for days before I could get it under control. Now, under the low carb/sugar diet the diarrhea lasts for “ONE” bowel movement and then it ends!! This is something I never thought was possible.
    As for meat causing cancer??? I honestly don’t know. But I do know one thing for sure….if I get another Diver infection and end up getting a section of bowel removed my life will be changed forever AND I could still get cancer!! I just had my 5 year lower GI endoscopy. The doctor said that my Diver is there but not red, infected or inflamed in any way. No polyps and no other problems. He told me to eat plenty of fiber and keep doing whatever I’m doing. I told him that I mostly eat meat, eggs, bacon, fish, green beans and salads. He said, “Well, if it works for you??”.
    Lastly, ever since I stopped eating sugar and carbs my sinuses have stopped getting inflamed. I’ve had allergies all my life but under this diet it been really great!! The low carb/sugar diet may not be for everyone but it’s the best thing I ever did.

    PS – I believe that inflamed tissues are a very good place for cancer to breed or at least exploit weaknesses in the human body!!

    treblig

  75. There has been a war between the grain farmers (big agribusiness now) and the cattle industry since the 70’s. I remember the commercials from both of them at the time the first food government food guide came out (guess who won!). Another salvo in this long running and now institutionalized debate. If you ask most people born in the 1880’s to 1920’s (not many around now), they had a heavy meat diet and cancer was relatively rare (my grandmother ate bacon frequently, fried fish in bacon fat, lived in a coal mining town where no grass grew due to coal dust, and she only lived until 99, she was born in 1893). I agree with Chris, don’t panic and throw all that high density nutrition out. There is a lot of good stuff in properly raised red meat and it’s high density nutrition you cannot get from plants alone.

    • My issue is not the meat itself but could it be the chemicals used to process it. Once upon a time fish like pork was soaked in smokehouses, now a lot of it is dipped in flavourings and dyes. Sausages were made at home or at least by the local butcher, now in factories with all sorts of goodness knows what added. We need to go back to granny’s time when it was home cooked and at least we knew exactly what we were eating.

    • As someone who works in the culinary field I would say look at countries like Spain, Italy, France, and many others where ‘processed’ meats are staples of the traditional cuisines. I don’t have to tell you what you will find.

      • Thank you for finally saying what I’ve been thinking all along!

        We don’t have to do a controlled double blind study. If there really was a causal relationship between cured meats and cancer then the Spanish and the Italians would be dropping like flies. The only way I can imagine them increasing their cured meat consumption is by taking baths in salami!

        That’s not to say that there aren’t serious problems with industrial “cured meat products” in the US. But that has no relevance to me because I only eat food.

        On the other hand, when the WHO comes out with a study proving that my uncle’s home cured capocolo causes cancer … I guarantee you I will stop eating it!

        • This is precisely what I believe. The articles that I have seen written on the WHO study do not delve deeper into the source or processing methods of cured and processed meats.

    • I like Dr. Jeff’s response Dr. Kessler’s excellent article. I also love the mix of science and common sense. I agree that there is a likelihood that many red meat eaters in the west also indulge in far less healthy ‘foods’ that are processed and full of sugar and that this most likely contributes to any skewed research on the carcinogenic effects of red meat. As far as processed meats, there needs to be a discussion on the difference between today’s processed meats and meats that were processed for hundreds if not thousands of years. How different are the processed meats that we eat in the US from those in Europe and furthermore are the European processed meats still produced in a wholesome manner without added preservatices and chemicals?

Leave a Reply

[if lte IE 8]
[if lte IE 8]