Red meat and processed meats contain more saturated fat and trans fat than other animal products, and, therefore, are poorer food choices. However, the fat issue does not tell the whole story. Scientific studies have documented that red meat has a much more pronounced association with colon cancer and pancreatic cancer compared with other animal products. The consumption of red meat and processed meats on a regular basis more than doubles the risk of some cancers. Even ingesting a small amount of red meat, such as two to three ounces a day, has been shown to significantly increase the risk of cancer.1 Toxic nitrogenous compounds (called N-nitroso) occur in larger concentrations in red meat and processed meats. Red meat also has high haem (also spelled heme) content. Haem is an iron-carrying protein, and it has been shown to have destructive effects on the cells lining our digestive tract.2 Processed meat, luncheon meat, barbequed meat, and red meat must not be a regular part of your diet if you are looking to maintain excellent health into your later years of life.
The frequent consumption of animal products also increases the risk of cancer. To achieve optimal health, we require a significant exposure to a full symphony of phytochemicals in unprocessed plant matter that we would not be eating sufficiently as animal products increase as a percent of total calories and the percentage of vegetation decreases proportionally. Also, since animal products contain no fiber, they remain in the digestive tract longer, slowing digestive transit time and allowing heightened exposure to toxic compounds.
Your goal is to gradually reduce the consumption of animal products in your diet until you’re only consuming them two to three times per week, but you should certainly avoid processed meat and barbecued meat.
1. Chao A, Thun JT, Connell CJ, et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA 2005;293:172-182.
2. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van der Meer R. Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium. Carcinogenesis 2001;22(10):1653-1659. Hughes R, Cross AJ, Pollock JR, Bingham S. Dose dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic N-nitrosation. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(1):199-202.