Meat hit today’s headlines in a big way when the World Health Organization (Not The Who, the W.H.O.) officially linked colorectal cancer to processed meats. Whilst Boar’s Head must be shaking in their hooves, to those in the know, this is well… nothing new. However, it is good to see the story in the mainstream shortly after the UN suggested gently that animal agriculture is as responsible for our doom as a species as fossil fuels, Justin Beiber and Ebola.
Whilst we in the natural health movement are so happy that the public are finally being enlightened on why cancer just isn’t going away despite throwing trillions of dollars at it, it was a shame that they limited the findings to simply the carcinogenic acrylamides formed when meat is fried or grilled. I mean Dr Joel Fuhrman MD was talking about those twenty years ago. Very passe.
Another big issue concerning meat and health arose this week when it seems even supermarkets have no idea what’s going on. The European branches of ALDI are furious with suppliers Comigel whose branches in Ireland and France were selling them 100% horse meat instead of 100% beef. A minor fib. Products tested ranged from 30% to 100% horse. Unfortunately, as horses aren’t intended to be eaten they are also regularly injected with phenylbutazone, a steroid that can cause blood disorders in humans which was found in the food items also. However, most of the population are willing to take the risk and enjoy the foods they know and love. But is it really worth it?
So what’s the real “beef: with meat? Don’t I have enough colon to spare a few sections of it?
So we all read the Harvard studies linking red meat to an increased cancer risk. This caused a well intentioned shift with consumers from red meat to white meats such as seafood and chicken. I won’t get into radioactive/heavy metal contamination of fish and seafood and the cholesterol in shrimp and chicken here.
But why do I think the shift from red meat should have been to a plant based diet rather than white meats?
Sodium Nitrates used to preserve meats can be deadly
So firstly in addition to grilling, sodium nitrates added to processed meats (and lord knows what really goes into fast food) have been linked by the University of Hawaii with pancreatic cancer because during cooking sodium nitrates bond with naturally present amines to form carcinogenic N-nitroso. It’s also why I shudder when well intentioned parents send children to school with Luncheables. Scared yet? You should be.
IGF-1 linked with premature ageing and cancer
However, the biggest and most debated factor when it comes to the consumption of animal products is a hormone called IGF-1. When we eat too much animal protein, the body increases it’s production of IGF-1, a growth hormone. This is a very different process for example than growth hormones added to dairy milk causing early breast development in young girls. This is something our body produces when we ingest ANY animal protein. Organic, grass fed, milk, eggs, dairy, you name it. IGF-1 is a vital hormone when we are developing children. However, as adults, increased IGF-1 contributes to premature ageing. And unfortunately, cancer. High levels of IGF-1 have been associated with the growth, spread and risk of cancer. In defense of meat eaters, isolated soy protein found in common protein powders, white flour, white rice and sugar also raise this hormone, with meat being the biggest offender.
Casein in cheese found to turn “on” cancer growth
Most vegans have read Colin Campbell PhD’s The China Study – the incredible research done by a dairy farmer’s son on how diet affects cancer. What most people don’t know is that Dr Campbell originally set out to prove that adding animal protein to the diets of poor children in the Philippines would halt an alarming rise in pancreatic cancer. Although the cancer was finally linked a mold carcinogen on peanuts, researchers noted that most cases of the cancer occurred in the more affluent families where more meat was consumed. To cut a long story, numerous quantitative studies and research short, Dr Campbell eventually ran a study on rats exposed to the same carcinogen. Rats eating a diet high in casein (the protein in cheese) and exposed to the carcinogen developed cancer. However, those eating a diet low in casein did not. Therefore, the carcinogen loaded the gun and the casein pulled the trigger. It can be assumed that animal proteins from similar items such as meat or eggs may have the same effect.
So what is the best solution? As vegan hot dogs were just found to contain human DNA (not so vegan after all… or at the least unhygenic) it’s certainly not in trading one set of processed foods for another. Personally I don’t think vegans eating Oreos have a better shot of staying healthy than those who enjoy meat.
Firstly, every study and book I have read has shown a cumulative effect of meat or processed food on the body. There are incredibly healthy populations around the world who include a small amount of animal products in their diet such as the Hunza (5-10% animal products which would be one meal every 3-6 days) and Okinawans. They aren’t getting a Bacon McDouble every morning and they are offsetting their animal products with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (don’t forget white rice raises IGF-1 levels – it’s out too) and lower stress levels. Therefore, although myself and the animals would prefer you go all out and stop eating them you can certainly improve your health by cutting back, particularly on grilled or fried meat. Get organic or local to avoid the added hormones and animals fed GMO corn or other sick animals which is equally fishy. Because at that point it’s just a risk multiplier, Vegas style. Nitrate treated bacon would therefore be the equivalent of betting your life savings on 00.
Ideally, the best thing for health is to adopt a Whole Foods, Plant Based Diet. Whole foods, simply means stuff without a barcode. Lots of vegetables which haven’t been mutated into potato chips. Eating the rainbow. Salads, fruits, juices and home cooked dishes made with ingredients without a barcode. Plant based, same idea, you eat plants. Did you know gorillas don’t eat other animals but are one of the strongest animals on earth? We can get everything we need from eating fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND watching Forks Over Knives and reading Eat To Live by Dr Joel Fuhrman if you are open to trying out a healthier lifestyle. In addition to cutting disease risks, most people have increased energy, better moods and fewer sicknesses when they switch to diets high in vitamin rich vegetables and fruits. Personally, changing my diet reversed my autoimmune conditions so anything is possible! But the best thing we can all do to fight cancer is to prevent cancer.