The Health Effect Of Red Meat

The World Health Organisation says it is advisable to limit the consumption of red meat and eliminate processed meat altogether.

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Red Meat Butcher Display Image from PIXABAY.COM

There is a lot of controversies on whether red meat is good for health. Also, we hear shout-outs from Green enthusiasts about rearing cows for meat consumption.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, (which is the Agency of the World Health Organisation), released a staggering report on the relation between red meat and cancer. The report based on scientific studies concluded that:

‘’Red Meat Consumption ‘PROBABLY’ causes cancer’’

The addition of ‘probable’’ means it is inconclusive yet. However, the report suggests stronger evidence against ‘’PROCESSED MEAT’’, because it concluded that:

‘’Processed Meat Causes Cancer.’’

Processed meat is meat that has been preserved by curing, salted, and or smoked. Processed meat includes canned beef (corned beef), sausages, bacon, deli meats, ham, sliced luncheon meat, (from pork, chicken or turkey). There is strong evidence that these types of meat are linked to colon cancer, but much lesser evidence to prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common malignancy worldwide and the fourth leading cause of cancer death.

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Photo: Processed meat by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

What Defines Red Meat?

According to the research, red meat is classified as, beef, lamb, mutton, pork, goat, veal and venison. It does not include, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, rabbit and other game birds that some people eat.

What Is In Red Meat That Makes It Bad For Consumption?

A group of researchers at Wanigenin University in Netherland carried out a further study and discovered that:

‘’Red Meat Is Rich In HAEM’’

Haem is an iron-containing compound, which is plentiful in red meat than in white meat. The researchers fed the researched animals haem continuously for two weeks and noticed that the wall of the large intestine (colon) of these animals is damaged. Haem destroys a mucus layer that protects the colon.

This haem compound with others in red meat (saturated fat) is attributed to an increase in DNA synthesis, cell proliferation, increase insulin-like growth factors effect, and hormone metabolism. All these promote free radical damage, which may lead to cancer.

But the extent of damage depends on the type of bacteria in their colon. We all know that the large intestine contains thousands of bacteria. So some of the animals were given a dose of antibiotics, which wipe out certain bacteria. It was discovered that the animals that received antibiotics make it impossible for haem to get to the wall of the colon to do the damage.

The European Research carried out studies on 478,000 men and women, who were cancer-free when the study started. The study reported that out of those who ate at least five ounces of cooked red meat a day, 1329 were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

What Does The W.H.O. Recommends?

The W.H.O., therefore, recommends we limit the amount of red meat and eliminate processed meal altogether, especially grilled and barbecued meat. It says limit, not abandon altogether. So The W.H.O., in essence, is not advocating vegetarianism, mainly because there are some people who get their dietary iron from meat.

Although meat is a good source of proteins, iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins, especially B12 which is from the animal source, dietary iron can be obtained from other sources like legumes, and breakfast cereals (as most are fortified).

Other Risk Factors

Cancer is such a complex illness with many genetic and environmental factors affecting the risk.

Although the study trend reiterated that high red and process meat intake may probably cause colorectal cancer, other risk factors are obesity, smoking, high level of alcohol intake, lack of dietary fibre, physical exercise, vitamins and of course old age.

Results vary from one country to another, however, in some studies, high intake of red and processed meat is also related to breast, ovarian, and endometriosis cancers. And in a few cases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is indicated.

Make Food The Foundation Of Your Health

Incidences of cancer are attributed largely to diet, and to a lesser extent to environmental factors. People’s busy lifestyle prevents them from having time for good home-based food preparation, so they resort to either fast foods or gourmet dining outside. This is not the same as home-based foods. When you prepare your foods, you know what goes into it, and you know what you re eating.

It is therefore wise to ensure you eat healthily. Ensure your food is as natural as possible. Think of plant protein as good alternatives to animal protein. A healthy plate should contain a minimum of 80% plant meal. Eating healthily involves some personal sacrifices, but what price tag can you put on good health. It is priceless.

A good way to cut down on red and processed meat is to eat them less often and or reduce the portion size. Getting active too will aid your digestive system.

An avid reader. A lover of Nature as Nature is the language of God. Trust your intuition. It is always right. Email:

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