The USDA’s latest figures show that Americans are continuing to turn away from meat. Meat consumption reached a high of 201.5 pounds per capita in 2004 but has dropped steadily since then, reaching 181.5 pounds in 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. The last time meat intake was at this level was 1983. These figures show that the average American is consuming 20 pounds less meat each year, compared to a decade ago.
In the post-World-War-II era, meat intake rose steadily. It began to decline a decade ago in the face of concerns about health, animal welfare, and the environment, as well as the ready availability of healthier foods.
Skipping meat has many advantages. People who avoid meat are thinner than meat-eaters. In a 2009 study published by the American Diabetes Association, meat-eaters had an average body mass index (BMI) of 28.8, well above 25.0, the upper limit for a healthful weight. But people who avoided animal products had an average BMI of 23.6. Avoiding meat also cuts the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease and improves blood pressure.
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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but just because March is ending, doesn’t mean that colorectal cancer will simply disappear. To raise awareness one month out of the year, some folks will buy rubber wristbands. Others will put magnetic ribbons on their car or wear dark blue on Tuesdays. While the intentions are noble, they won’t actually decrease anyone’s risk of colorectal cancer. But there is one simple change everyone should make that can dramatically reduce the risk of colorectal cancer: ditching processed meat.
The evidence is clear—processed meat causes colorectal cancer. Processed meat products are “meats that have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding other preservatives.” This includes hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, ham, and deli meats. Unfortunately, all of these are common items found on restaurant menus, in school cafeterias, and even in hospitals. Raising awareness about colorectal cancer involves spreading the word about the dangers of putting pepperoni on pizza, serving bologna on lunch lines, or hawking hot dogs at a baseball game. It takes more than ribbons and t-shirts to make a difference—it involves making a change and encouraging your loved ones to do the same, or even writing letters to local restaurants and asking them to take cancer-causing dishes off their menus.
From now on, instead of shelling out cash for a wristband you’ll just toss on April 1st, how about skipping processed meat? Or if you’re ahead of the game and have already eliminated these products from your diet, share our infographic illustrating all of the dangers of processed meat and convince a friend to Drop the Dog. Spread the word and save a life.
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Just in time for World Cancer Day this week, the World Health Organization released a new statistic stating that cancer cases worldwide are expected to increase by 70 percent over the next 20 years. This is grim news, but by eliminating just two things, cigarettes and processed meat, you can decrease your risk of 23 types of cancer.
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CVS made strides in cancer prevention this morning by announcing plans to cease the sale of cigarettes by October. This is evidence that the massive shift in conversation surrounding tobacco products is working. Changes like this will save countless lives. But in order to reverse growing cancer rates, we need to focus our attention on the cancer-causing product of our generation: processed meat.
Nearly everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, evidenced by the fact that you can’t light up a cigarette in schools, bars, airports, office buildings, or hospitals. However, the lack of public awareness about diet’s role in cancer isn’t limited to just the United States. In 2009, nearly 73 percent of Canadians were unaware of the link between diet and cancer. A recent U.K. survey shows that 49 percent of citizens are in the dark.
If the public knew the direct correlation between processed meat and cancer, hot dogs and sausage wouldn’t be in school lunches, hospital cafeterias, or at every ballpark stadium. A study published in December showed that the link between animal products and cancer was as strong as the link between smoking and cancer. A review published in the journal Nutrition Research elaborated on how meat can cause colorectal cancer. In fact, the research linking meat and cancer goes all the way back to 1907.
Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man have morphed into images of body bags and teens yanking out their teeth with pliers. Let’s ignite the same change in processed meat—the Oscar Mayer Wiener becomes a colostomy bag, and hot dog eating competitions turn into a hospital morgue. CVS should ban hot dogs, spam, and pepperoni.
Hopefully by World Cancer Day 2015, both processed meat and tobacco will be off the shelves.