National Cancer Institute says the more red meat and processed meat you eat, the greater your risk of getting cancer.

The more red meat and processed meat you eat, the greater your risk of cancer, according to results of a National Cancer Institute study that was published in the December 2007 issue of the online journal PLoS Medicine.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, over 500,000 people aged 50-71 were monitored for nearly 8 years to track the connection between eating red meat, processed meats, and cancer.

Researchers concluded that just a quarter-pound hamburger or a small pork chop eaten daily could put you at increased risk for a variety of cancers. Their findings showed that the more red meat and processed meat you eat, the greater your risk for colorectal, prostate, lung, esophageal, liver, bladder, laryngeal, and bone cancers.

The red meats included in the study were beef, pork and lamb. Processed meats included bacon, red-meat sausage, poultry sausage, luncheon meats, cold cuts, ham, regular hot dogs and low-fat hot dogs.

"Our findings for colorectal cancer are consistent with the recommendations from the recently published World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research to limit consumption of red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb." said lead author Amanda Cross, an epidemiologist at NCI.

According to Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, "This adds to the body of knowledge that supports recommendations that to reduce the risk of colon cancer, you should reduce your consumption of red and processed meats."

“If you are someone who eats steak or pork or lamb or salami or hot dogs, etc., on a regular basis and/or in large portion sizes, I would probably suggest you look for healthier protein sources to include in your diet," Doyle added. The American Cancer Society recommends that people eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains with some lean proteins to prevent cancer.

At Down to Earth, we couldn’t agree more. The single most important thing a person can do for their health is to adopt a vegetarian diet.

Virtually all the major scientific and medical institutions in the world agree that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases is linked to a meat-based diet consisting of highly processed foods laden with fats and artificial ingredients.

These institutions further agree that the risk is greatly reduced by adopting a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet. At Down to Earth, we believe this result is best achieved by adopting a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of organic produce and natural foods.

With so many plant-based meat alternatives to choose from (such as vegetarian burgers, and mock-beef, bacon, chicken, fish), there is no reason to put yourself at increased risk for cancer by eating red meat or processed meats. This is particularly true because you can get plenty of protein from whole grains, vegetables, legumes, tofu, nuts, and seeds.

We welcome anyone who is interested in moving towards a plant-based diet to attend one of our free Vegetarian Cooking Classes or Nutrition Seminars, or contact a Down to Earth Nutritionist.