A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report that referenced over 800 cancer studies indicated cured meats are carcinogenic and then concluded red meat is probably harmful too. It caused quite a stir and, unfortunately for the meat industry, it’s bad science and speculation.
Cancer is gene mutations that occur after birth and aren’t inherited. Science agrees that a number of forces can cause gene mutations such as smoking, radiation, viruses, cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), obesity, hormones, chronic inflammation, and a lack of exercise. In WHO’s study, only chemicals (carcinogens) and chronic inflammation can be meat related cancer causes.
Nutrition and biology scientists recognize certain facts. When one’s essential fatty acid (EFA) ratio of Omega-6 (n6) to Omega-3 (n3) fatty acids exceeds 2:1 cancers bloom. Sugar and high glycemic foods accelerate cancerous growths. Burned meat is carcinogenic. High n6 levels and mycotoxins from fungi are inflammatory.
The WHO release was short on specifics and long on speculation. Therefore even though it was based on 800 studies, it’s methodology comes into question.
All meats are naturally zero glycemic. But the EFA n6 to n3 ratios of meat varies with the foods the animals ate. Grain-fed meats have EFA ratios of about 15:1. For cancers, ratios above 2:1 can contribute to more aggressive tumor growth. Grass-fed meats have ratios below 2:1 that restrict tumor growth.
Grain-fed meats can have mycotoxins in the fat. Aflatoxin B1, a mycotoxin that’s a natural carcinogen, is produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus growing on stored grains, nuts, and peanut butter. It is an example of a potent, naturally occurring microbial carcinogen. Since grains are universally infected with fungi, grain-fed livestock can frequently host mycotoxins and they are inflammatory.
The WHO report does not reveal if the meats in the studies were grain-fed or grass-fed. It didn’t even list what other foods the participants ate! The report did not reveal the ingredients used in the cured meats. Most are cured with sugars (which “feed” cancers) and other controversial ingredients such as sodium nitrate. Some studies suggest that when cooking certain meats, sodium nitrites combine with naturally present amines in the meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds.
According to WHO’s estimates, of the 8.2 million worldwide deaths caused by cancer in 2012 only about 34,000 can be attributed to diets high in cured meat. WHO did not indicate how much processed meat is considered high in a diet. And with only 0.4% of the cancer deaths attributable to cured meats, and no deaths attributable to plain red meat, one must question the validity of their conclusions.
We wonder what else the participants ate because grains have very high EFA ratios and are high glycemic. Nuts and vegetable oils have very high EFA ratios. Both grains and nuts can have mycotoxin loads from fungi. In addition all high-heat fried foods and deep fat fried foods like potato chips and french fries cause cancer. Those foods are the opposite of grass-fed meat.
Slanker red meat smoked sausages are made with grass-fed ground meat and spices. There is no sugar and other bad stuff added. That’s why our deli meats are labeled as smoked but not cured.
The WHO report is a classic example of bad science with an agenda. Instead of looking at the additives in the meat and whether the livestock were grain-fed or not, they just assumed all meats are the same and, no matter what, meat itself must be the reason for some cancers. WHO didn’t even analyze what else the many various participants were eating. So how could they tell which of the many foods they ate were bad? They couldn’t. So they guessed.
WHO wants to limit all foods to fruit and vegetables for “the health of the planet.” On that count they couldn’t be more messed up. Contrary to the misguided beliefs of many, raising livestock on pastures is the most environmentally friendly food to raise. Fruits and vegetables require the most invasive farming methods, the greatest number of inputs, more fossil fuels, and a lot of water. And then nearly half of it is wasted.
Avoiding foods that cause disease seems fundamental. But it requires knowledge, a commitment to health, an ability to read ingredient labels, and a willingness to change.
To your health.
Posted October 27, 2015
For additional reading:
This is the release from WHO.
This is the response from the Beef industry.
Four Fundamental Science Reports