WHO meat & cancer link is only half the story

Trending now: The World Health Organization has unilaterally declared red meat and processed meats (bacon, ham, sausage, salami, and canned meats) to be carcinogenic. For those of us who have been paying attention for the last thirty years, this is no great revelation. The USDA has long advocated for limited consumption of red meats, and very occasional ingestion of meats that have been highly processed and preserved using salts, nitrates, smoking or other methods of curing to increase shelf life. Health experts since the ’70’s have touted complete abstinence from red meats, or have eschewed consuming animal flesh altogether.

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the bowels) is definitively linked to consumption of processed meats. According to the Scienceblog based in the UK:

“The results showed that those who ate the most processed meat had around a 17 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer, compared to those who ate the least.”

They also created this nifty infographic that breaks down how a food or substance gets classified as a risk for developing cancer:

How does eating red and processed meat directly contribute to developing cancer?

Processed meats are made with a variety of man-made chemicals such as nitrates and red meats are often charred or overcooked – the burnt organic material then producing it’s own carcinogenic compounds. Nitrates are also in drinking water contaminated by livestock and human waste and commercial fertilizers. Naturally occurring nitrates are not the culprit here – foods such as spinach and celery do contain nitrates, but not as an isolated chemical. They also come ready-to-eat with plenty of Vitamin C which keeps the body from transforming those nitrates into carcinogenic compounds.

But that’s not the whole picture….

As a holistic practitioner, the most striking aspect of this grandoise announcement by the World Health Organization (just about as ironic as the FDA’s decision to ban partially hydrogenated oils last June) – is the fact that it is an empirical conclusion (based on generalized correlations of consumption vs. development of cancer) without including other lifestyle factors that inevitably must be present:

  • other aspects of the individual’s diet that may have predisposed them to developing cancer
  • accounting for the larger picture of chemical contamination in our food and water supply
  • other related lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, activity level, alcohol consumption, etc.
  • demographics: it would be more telling to see if there were concentrated populations with high incidents of colorectal cancer, and, if so, what other factors are present to compromise the health of that area?

My humble opinion: 

The WHO and their strategic marketing think-tanks would like us to believe the cancer culprit is as simple and straight-forward as cutting out bacon and sausage from the diet. But the picture is so much bigger, and the problem of escalating cancer rates world-wide is far more insidious. Consider chem-trails, fracking, mono-cropping and GMOs, and you begin to get a sense that avoiding nitrates in your favorite hot dog isn’t a cure-all. WHO gives us a starting point by re-iterating what we have known for centuries: avoid highly processed foods as much as possible, eat close to the source, and all things in moderation. Even bacon.

plant foods(While you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to switch to organic bacon, on whole wheat bread with homegrown lettuce, tomato, and even a little homemade mayo – after yoga class.)

One Comment on “WHO meat & cancer link is only half the story

  1. Pingback: More scary headlines from the WHO…not so scary after all | the holistic homestead

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