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

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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?

meat causes cancer myth
Red meat is associated with many things, but cancer isn't one of them. istock.com/LauriPatterson

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.

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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!

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265 Comments

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  1. 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.

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

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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….

    • How did the cave man survive and THRIVE?? There were no farms or fruits or vegetables???

      treblig

      • 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

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Nice article. The typical vegan response to this – “They must be shills for the meat and egg industry”

  12. 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.

  13. No Chris, it will never stop. Veganism is a dogma and it is desperately trying to find scientific evidence to support its claims.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. I would avoid the animals fed GMO grain, even just as a finishing, though.
    My body is not Roundup ready.

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<div class='gf_browser_chrome gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/red-meat-cancer-again-will-it-ever-stop/comment-page-2/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='9958' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Gut Health' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Gut+Health' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_6" name="ak_js" value="236"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_6" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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<div class='gf_browser_chrome gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/red-meat-cancer-again-will-it-ever-stop/comment-page-2/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='9958' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Food Additives' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Food+Additives' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_7" name="ak_js" value="157"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_7" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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<div class='gf_browser_chrome gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/red-meat-cancer-again-will-it-ever-stop/comment-page-2/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='9958' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Diet-Heart Myth' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Diet-Heart+Myth' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_8" name="ak_js" value="96"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_8" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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<div class='gf_browser_chrome gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/red-meat-cancer-again-will-it-ever-stop/comment-page-2/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='9958' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='B12' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=B12' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_9" name="ak_js" value="47"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_9" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>