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Health, Institutions, Scientific progress

30 - 10 - 2015

Cancer and red meat, what is the link ?

This is the first time that charcuterie and red meat are singled out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and accused of promoting certain cancers, in particular colorectal cancer. The scientific community had already shown in animals that excess meat could be toxic to the DNA of cells. 

                                        In France, an adult eats per week on average 390gr ( 55gr per day) of meat, according to the 2010 Credoc report.  The WHO reportIn a report widely broadcasted in the press, the International Agency for Research on cancer, a WHO agency, classified processed meat (sausages and canned meat) as “carcinogenic” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic” for humans. This connection was observed regarding colorectal cancer but red meat has also been previously associated to prostate and pancreatic cancers. Experts calculated that for each 50gr servings of processed meat consumed per day, the risk of getting colorectal cancer increased by 18%. For red meat, about 100gr consumed per day is needed to induce a similar risk. So how much meat is it safe to eat ? The WHO doesn’t have the answer to that question yet and isn’t asking anyone to stop eating meat. Clarity should be made sometime in 2016 concerning the importance of processed meat and red meat in a healthy diet.   Scientific results and explanations in ratsLast July, INRA researchers published results of studies conducted on rats that showed the effects of red and processed meat consumption on the development of colorectal cancer. They showed that the digestion of processed and red meat produced toxic aldehydes that could cause mutations in the DNA of cells found in the colon and rectum, and in some cases cell death. The researchers then found that adding vitamin E to processed and red meat had a strong protective effect against this toxic compound. Research on the topic is ongoing. Read more on the same topic:  “The cocktail effect, barbecue special” shown in mice