A bacon a day does not keep the doctor away!

April 19, 2019

Most people eat some form of meat but a recent study led by Oxford University and funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK), has added to mounting evidence that eating red meat can be harmful.

Data from some half a million people in the UK Biobank study noted that 2,609 people developed bowel or colorectal cancer over six years:

  • For every 10,000 people in the study who ate 21g a day of red/processed meat, 40 were diagnosed with bowel cancer; those who ate 76g a day, was 48
  • Eating three rashers of bacon a day instead of just one could increase the risk of bowel cancer by 20%

Small amounts of red /processed meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer – the NHS has noted that 76g of cooked red meat is equivalent to half an 8oz sirloin steak; a slice of ham or rasher of bacon is about 23g of processed meat.

About 5,400 of the 41,804 yearly cases of bowel cancer in the UK could be prevented if people did not eat processed meat at all, according to CRUK.

Emma Shields, Information Manager at CRUK, has said that the study shows increasing consumption of red/processed meat heightens the risk of bowel cancer and the reverse also holds true.

Professor Gunter Kuhnle from the University of Reading, has described the study as a thorough analysis of the link between meat intake and bowel or colorectal cancer and, “The study also shows that dietary fibre reduces the risk of colorectal cancer – an increased consumption of fibre would be considerably more beneficial.”

Red/processed meat including bacon, some sausages and salami, is usually modified to either extend its shelf-life or change the taste by smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives. The chemicals involved in processing and high-temperature cooking could create carcinogenic substances; one of the proteins that lends its colour to red meat like beef, lamb and pork, has been suggested to damage the gut upon digestion.

However, people can still eat meat and be healthy.

Carrie Ruxton of the industry-funded Meat Advisory Panel has explained that lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on the risk of bowel cancer, adding that meat still provides valuable nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D and B vitamins.

NHS guidance has pointed to some benefits of meat – iron and protein content – that must be balanced against potential risks. The UK Department of Health has advised no more than 70g of red/processed meat a day.


Category: Health alert

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