In the news last week we heard about the Harvard School of Medicine epidemiology study in which the scientists reported that daily consumption of red meat—particularly the kind you might like to grill—may significantly increase your risk of premature death. Of course, when folks hear “red meat”, they immediately make associations to the Atkins Diet,which we all know is simply Internet lore. The Atkins Diet advocates for a balanced diet consisting of a healthy mix of proteins, vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, and good fats. Atkins is not a “red meat” diet–the plan emphasizes a balanced and healthy way of eating for life. However, having said that, we simply can't come to the conclusions the media has been spinning; slight associations simply does not equate to causality.
After 30 years of millions of Americans following Atkins, there has never been any association found to exist between cancer and the well-researched and scientifically studied medical/nutritional principles behind the Atkins philosophy. Quite to the contrary, many of the nutritional principles and guidelines upon which the Atkins approach is based may actually work preventatively with regard to many types of cancer.
Studies to date have found no association for consumption of fresh meats, fish, cheese, and eggs. However there have been slight trends in risk for consumption of cured and blackened meat, as well as processed meats.
Keep in mind however, that an individual can lower his/her risk of cancer when body mass index is normal.The association between the higher risk of colon cancer and high intake of meat ceases to exist when body mass index is adjusted for.
In fact, it has been consistently noted that overweight and obesity increases the risk of cancers of the breast (postmenopausal), endometrial (the lining of the uterus), colon, kidney, and esophagus. Avoiding weight gain can lower the risk of cancers of the breast (postmenopausal), endometrium, colon, kidney, and esophagus.
Unquestionably, all vegetables and low glycemic fruits supply the phytochemicals and antioxidants that are protective for all diseases, especially cancer. However, gram for gram, vegetables yield a much higher antioxidant score than fruits do, without the high sugar content (glycemic load) of most fruits. Glycemic load is the amount of carbohydrate in a food that raises the blood glucose at a rapid rate, provoking an excessive insulin response.
Previous research has also shown that a high glycemic load presents risk factors for obesity, which is, in and of itself, another risk factor for cancer. Several studies presented to date also identified insulin, insulin-like growth factors and high GI carbohydrates as risk factors.
The bottom line? If you are following Atkins, as it is laid out in The New Atkins for a New You, you are consuming plenty of fresh vegetables (and eventually low glycemc fruits), with equal opportunity given to poultry, fish, red meat and various other protein sources. This emphasis on whole foods (vs. packaged or overly processed foods ) is a solid prescription for good health.