Photo: Fruits and Vegetables

by Caitlin Rose

Our understanding of cancer has evolved significantly over the past decade. Research indicates that diet and lifestyle play a much larger role in the development of cancer than previously thought.


Leading health and medical experts have begun to focus more and more on prevention, with increasing focus on plant-based diets. To help prevent cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends maintaining a healthy weight throughout life, staying physically active on a regular basis, and adopting a healthy plant-based diet.1 The reason for this last recommendation is that red meat, and processed meat in particular, has been linked to an increased risk of cancer mortality.


For example, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a strong correlation between red meat and cancer mortality.2 The study followed 37,698 men and 83,644 women over a period of 28 years and found that for each daily increase in the number of servings of meat a person consumed, their risk of dying of cancer increased by 10%. For each serving of processed meat, the participants risk of dying of cancer increased by 16%.


This study joins a growing body of evidence linking red meat with cancer. 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.3 Researchers concluded that just a quarter-pound hamburger or a small pork chop eaten daily could put you at increased risk for colorectal, prostate, lung, esophageal, liver, bladder, laryngeal, and bone cancers.


"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 the National Cancer Institute. 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.


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.


To learn recipes for amazing vegetarian and vegan dishes that are easy to make, consider attending our free Vegetarian Cooking Classes. Learn more about Cooking Classes at Down to Earth

Footnotes: 
  1. Kushi, L., Doyle, C., McCullough, M., Rock, C., Denmark-Wahnefried, W., Bandera, E., & , (2012). American cancer society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, (62), 30-67. doi: doi: 10.3322/caac.20140
  2. Pan, A., Sun, Q., & Bernstein, A. (2012). Red meat consumption and mortality: Results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. ,172(7), 555-563. doi: doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287
  3. Cross, A., Leitzmann, M., Gail, M., Hollenbeck, A., Schatzkin, A., & Sinha, R. (2007). A prospective study of red and processed meat intake in relation to cancer risk. PLoS Med, 4(12), e325. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18076279