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Studies Show Red and Processed Meats Are Major Cancer Culprits

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Message Heather Moore
It seems we need to change the name of the classic BLT sandwich to CLT: cancer, lettuce, and tomato. Numerous studies have shown that there is a definite link between red and processed meats and cancer. Scientists at Sweden's Karolinska Institute recently analyzed the results of 15 prior studies on stomach cancer and found "unequivocal" evidence that eating bacon, sausage, smoked ham, and other processed meats raises ones risk of developing stomach cancer.

According to study author Susanna Larsson, the findings, which are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, "show very clearly that there is an association between increased consumption of processed meat products and stomach cancer."

This news shouldn't come as any big surprise. Following one survey of nearly 700 Nebraskans, doctors at Tufts University and the National Cancer Institute reported that people who ate meat had 3.6 times the risk of esophageal cancer and double the risk of stomach cancer compared to those who ate diets high in vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Another study conducted by doctors at Yale University showed that high fat intake, animal protein, vitamin B12, and cholesterol-found only in animal products-contributed to stomach and esophageal cancer. Dr. Susan T. Mayne announced that "prevention strategies for these cancers should emphasize increased consumption of plant foods, decreased consumption of foods of animal origin..."

Numerous other studies have also found a conclusive link between meat consumption and colorectal cancer. A 2005 study by the American Cancer Society (ACS), for example, found that people who eat large amounts of red or processed meat over a long period of time have a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Nearly 150,000 adults participated in the ACS study, and those who ate the most red meat were 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop cancer in the lower part of the colon than those who ate the least red meat. The study participants who ate the most processed meats were 50 percent more likely to develop colon cancer and 20 percent more likely to develop rectal cancer than those who ate the least processed meats.

The ACS researchers defined "high" consumption of red meat as three or more ounces per day for men (about the amount of meat in a large fast-food hamburger) and two or more ounces per day for women. For processed meat, including bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, bologna, and salami, "high" consumption was one ounce eaten five or six days per week for men, and two or three days per week for women.

Another study conducted by researchers at the Medical Research Council and the Open University Department of Chemistry in the United Kingdom showed a similar link between red and processed meats and bowel cancer, and a massive European Prospective Investigation of Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study also cited preserved and red meats as major culprits for colorectal cancer.

The EPIC study was the largest study of diet and cancer ever undertaken. It involved more than half a million people from ten European countries. The study also indicated that a diet high in fiber can help reduce your risk of cancer. Study participants who ate the most fiber reduced their risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 40 percent.

Unlike fruit, vegetables, and grains, meat and dairy products have absolutely no fiber. They are high in fat, calories, concentrated protein, and cholesterol; even "low fat" dairy products are packed with fat and cholesterol, relative to plant-based foods.

The ACS's Web site states: "In the majority of population studies, greater consumption of vegetables, fruits, or both together has been associated with a lower risk of lung, oral, esophageal and colon cancer. The best advice is to eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruit each day."

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, an internationally renowned nutrition expert, has stated that, "The vast majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented simply by adopting a plant-based diet."

So stay healthy. Skip the CLT and switch to a safe and delicious VBLT: veggie bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Vegetarian recipes and product suggestions can be found on
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Heather Moore is a freelance writer and a senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Norfolk, Va., where she lives with her rescued dog, Carly. Heather frequently writes on animal rights and health issues as a freelance (more...)
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