“Red Meat Causes Cancer”
“Bacon Could Kill You”
These are examples of some of the sensational headlines in the news this week. According to the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report, red meat should be classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meat (bacon, sausage and deli meats) should be classified as “carcinogenic to humans.” But before you banish the bacon and forgo all red meat, let’s learn the facts. This report referred to an association between red or processed meat and cancer; it did not say these foods caused cancer. Nor did the researchers adjust for other variables like body weight, or environmental pollutants, or whether nitrates, hormones or chemicals in processed meats contributed to this heightening cancer risk or was it specifically the meat. And when body mass index is adjusted for, the association between the higher risk of colon cancer and high intake of meat cease to exist. In fact it has been consistently noted that overweight and obesity increases the risk of cancers of the breast (postmenopausal), endometrium (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.
Studies to date have found no association with cancer and the consumption of fresh meats, fish, cheese and eggs. With this being said, there have been positive trends in epidemiology studies in the risk for consumption of cured, processed and blackened meat. (An epidemiology study compares two groups of people who are alike except for one factor, such as exposure to a chemical or health effect.) While these assumptions have not been tested and studied in clinical trials, Atkins has already recommended that people who follow the diet limit exposure to processed meats. Page 83 of New Atkins for a New You states “Some processed meats—think pepperoni, salami, hot dogs and the like—bacon, and ham are cured with sugar, which adds to their carb count. Also steer clear of cold cuts and other meats with added nitrates, and meat products made with bread crumbs such as meat balls, meat loaf and Salisbury steak.”
Your best bet, aside from learning your facts and not succumbing to the media hype? Focus on the quality of your food. You can’t go wrong with fresh vegetables, full-fat sources of dairy, eggs, fish and poultry, and even red meat (if you would like, try hormone free, grass-fed red meat), plus fruits and whole grains in later stages of Atkins or in controlled portions on Atkins 40. Limit your intake of processed meats, or look for uncured, nitrate-free, hormone free versions of bacon, sausage and cold cuts.