Meat and cancer: Live and let die

Published by rudy Date posted on April 7, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Dr. Michael Eades in his article “Meat and mortality” said, “The news is abuzz with reports of the latest study to come out showing that eating meat, especially red meat, kills us off before our time.”

Although this study is totally worthless from a causality perspective because it is an observational study, it does serve to confirm the biases of those non-critical thinkers who have already bought into the idea that meat is bad.  The study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine is a typical epidemiological or observational study which can’t be used to prove causation. Even if it could, this study would be questionable at best because the relative risk (RR) is slightly over 1.0.  Because of the nature of the difficulty in doing these kinds of studies with any kind of accuracy, it takes a RR of over at least 2.0 to get the serious attention of anyone who doesn’t have a built-in bias.

At the same time that this paper appeared, showing increased red meat consumption to be tied to a slight increased risk of death (and showing that those subjects eating white meat had less risk), a couple of other papers came out in the online pre-publication section of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), arguably the world’s most prestigious nutritional scientific journal.  These two AJCN papers saw the light of day at around the same time as this highly-publicized study on meat and mortality, but demonstrated the opposite results.  They got no press coverage whatsoever.  Knowing this, careful readers should take anything negative the media reports about red meat with an enormous grain of salt.

This paper goes on to discuss how the hypothesis that fat and meat intake causes cancer got kicked off way back in the 1960s from a presentation at a symposium. In shades of Ancel Keys and his discredited Seven Countries Study, a researcher named Ernst Wynder used the international food and cancer mortality data to demonstrate an increase in colorectal cancer as a correlate of increasing oil and fat consumption.  The hypothesis, although never proven, has been with us since.  The authors of this paper set out to study it once again. After sifting through all this data, what did the authors find?  Absolutely nothing.  No correlation between meat and/or fat intake and colorectal cancer.

Another study in the advanced online section of AJCN titled “Mortality in British vegetarians: results from the European prospective investigation in cancer and nutrition (EPIC-Oxford)” shows that things aren’t always what they seem.  Yet the press refuses to pick up and report this man-bites-dog story.

You would think that if a study came out of a prestigious institution (Oxford) and was published in a top-line scientific journal showing that vegetarians don’t live any longer than non-vegetarians and actually have a higher incidence of some particularly nasty cancers (but slightly lower rates of death from heart disease), it would be newsworthy.  But the press has totally ignored this study. After the study period, the numbers of deaths in the two groups were tallied, and it was found that vegetarians didn’t live any longer than non-vegetarians.  As a percentage, the number of deaths in each group was the same.

The point of this post is that you shouldn’t get wound up about a study that gets reported throughout the media because there are more than likely other studies that are just as well done and just as important showing exactly the opposite findings that the press chooses to ignore.  You’re not seeing the science as it is, you’re seeing the science as the press wants you to see it, which, typically, is the way that confirms the bias of members of the press.

So shall we go ahead and eat meat ad libitum? We must eat properly raised animals. That includes fish and chicken. With all the pesticides, artificial enhancers, antibiotics, and hormones they add to feeds, we should think twice about consuming them. Fortunately, there are plenty of vegetable growers now using organic fertilizers and natural pesticides. We commend Governor DV Savellano of Ilocos Sur for being an advocate of scientific, safe, and sound farming practices. We have a lot to learn from the demo farm of this promising province.

As Dr. Mary Enig pointed out, properly raised meat, poultry, and fish nourish the body as nature would have intended them to. But when man tampers with nature by adding harmful nitrites, trans fats, food coloring, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, the body’s immune system is jeopardized. No wonder when the article “Evidence grows that eating red meat increases cancer” came out in The British Medical Journal (Jan. 15, 2005), they meant red meat from — hold your breath now — bacon, sausage, hamburger, cheeseburger, meatloaf, or casserole with minced beef, beef steak, beef roast, beef stew, pot pie, liver, pork, hotdog, ham, bologna, salami, and luncheon meat.

But if it is true that red meat eaters increase their risk of colorectal cancers, why is it that people who eat nothing but red meat like the Canadian Inuit, American Indians, hunters, as well as the Masai tribes of Kenya did not suffer any forms of cancer at all?

By the way, these are the anticancer nutrients found in properly raised meat, poultry, and fish:

• Vitamin A: Strengthens the immune system. Essential for mineral metabolism and endocrine function, it helps detoxify. True, vitamin A is found only in animal foods such as cod liver oil; fish and shellfish; and liver, butter, and egg yolks from pasture-fed animals. Traditional diets contain 10 times more vitamin A than the typical modern American diet

• Vitamin C: An important antioxidant that prevents damage by free radicals. It is found in many fruits and vegetables but also in certain organ meats valued by primitive peoples.

• Vitamin B6: Deficiencies are associated with cancer. It contributes to the function of over 100 enzymes and is mostly available from animal foods.

• Vitamin B12: Deficiencies are associated with cancer. Found only in animal foods.

• Vitamin B17: Found in a variety of organically grown grains, legumes, nuts, and berries.

• Vitamin D: Required for mineral absorption, it is strongly protective against breast and colon cancers. Found only in animal foods such as cod liver oil, lard, shellfish, and butterfat, organ meats and egg yolks from grass-fed animals.

• Vitamin E: Works as an antioxidant at the cellular level. Found in unprocessed oils as well as in animal fats like butter and egg yolks.

• Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): Strongly protective against breast cancer. Found in the butterfat and meat fat of grass-fed ruminant animals.

• Cholesterol: A potent antioxidant that protects against free radicals in cell membranes. Found only in animal foods.

• Minerals: The body needs generous amounts of a wide variety of minerals to protect itself against cancer. Minerals like zinc, magnesium, and selenium are vital components of enzymes that help the body fight carcinogens. Minerals are more easily absorbed from animal foods.

• Lactic acid and friendly bacteria: Contribute to the health of the digestive tract. Found in old-fashioned lacto-fermented foods.

• Saturated fats: Strengthen the immune system. Needed for proper use of the essential fatty acids. The lungs cannot function without saturated fats. Found mostly in animal foods.

• Long-chain fatty acids: Arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) help fight cancer on the cellular level. They are found mostly in animal foods such as butter, organ meats, cod liver oil, and seafood.

• Co-enzyme Q10: Highly protective against cancer, it is found only in animal foods.–Angel S. Respicio, Jr. MD, Philippine Star

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