Tag Archives: Meat

Cancer Prevention Can Start in the Checkout Line

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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By eliminating just two things, cigarettes and processed meat, you can decrease your risk of 23 types of cancer.

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.

1907 New York Times Article Shows that Meat Causes Cancer. A century later, many people still haven’t heard the news.

In a recent NPR debate about the risks of meat-eating, I put forward the proposition that meat causes cancer. Judging by faces in the audience, this was a new idea. While everyone understands the link between cancer and cigarettes, the link with meat has somehow escaped notice.

I cited two enormous studies—the 2009 NIH-AARP Cancer Increasing Among Meat Eatersstudy, with half a million participants, and a 2012 Harvard study with 120,000 participants. In both studies, meat-eaters were at higher risk of a cancer death, and many more studies have shown the same thing.

How does meat cause cancer? It could be the heterocyclic amines—carcinogens that form as meat is cooked. It could also be the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or the heme iron in meat, or perhaps its lack of fiber and paucity of antioxidants. But really the situation is like tobacco. We know tobacco causes lung cancer, even though no one yet knows exactly which part of the tobacco smoke is the major culprit. And although meat-eaters clearly have higher cancer rates, it is not yet clear which part of meat does the deed.

The tragedy is this: The link between meat and cancer has been known for more than a century. On September 24, 1907, the New York Times published an article entitled “Cancer Increasing among Meat Eaters,” which described a seven-year epidemiological study showing that meat-eaters were at high cancer risk, compared with those choosing other staples. Focusing especially on immigrants who had abandoned traditional, largely planted-based, diets in favor of meatier fare in the U.S., the lead researcher said, “There cannot be the slightest question that the great increase in cancer among the foreign-born over the prevalence of that disease in their native countries is due to the increased consumption of animal foods….”

Over the past century, meat eating in America has soared, as have cancer statistics. USDA figures show that meat eating rose from 123.9 pounds of meat per person per year in 1909 to 201.5 pounds in 2004.

The good news is that many have woken up and smelled the carcinogens. They know there is plenty of protein in beans, grains, and vegetables, and that traditional Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese foods—and endless other cuisines—turn these plant-based staples into delicious and nourishing meals. Meat eating has fallen about one percent every year since 2004.

If you haven’t yet kicked the habit, the New Year is the perfect time to do it. We’ve got you covered with our Kickstart programs, books, DVDs, and everything else you’ll ever need. Let’s not wait another hundred years.

Chicken and the Other Foodborne Illnesses

Ninety-seven percent of raw chicken in U.S. supermarkets is contaminated with bacteria that could make you sick, according to a new Consumer Reports study. That’s important to remember. But it’s a bit like saying 97 percent of cigarettes could give you bad breath. Compared to the numerous other negative health impacts of eating chicken, food poisoning might actually be the least of your worries.Physicians Committee Five Worst Contaminants in Chicken Inforgraphic

Foodborne illnesses are a serious threat to public health—taking the lives of about 3,000 Americans annually—and the poultry industry has no excuse for selling bacteria-laden meat. But contaminated or not, chicken is not safe to eat—it never has been.

Many people are surprised to learn that chicken is one of the top sources of saturated fat and the second leading source of cholesterol in the American diet. In these respects, it ranks right up there with burgers, bacon, and beef. Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol lead to blocked arteries, stroke, and heart attack. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is responsible for one out of every four deaths.

A passion for poultry also puts Americans at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Chicken is the leading source of HCAs—heterocyclic amines—which are cancer-causing chemicals that form as meat—especially chicken—is cooked.

It’s time we started recognizing these diet-related conditions as the other foodborne illnesses… and tracing them back to chicken.