Active Seniors

Fleshing out the association between red meat and cancer

There has been alot of discussion recently about the association between red meat consumption and cancer following the release of a study linking the two. While there has been a long standing realisation that processed meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer, there are a few considerations when looking at red meat consumption as a whole and cancer.

Looking at the study conducted there are a few important points to note about the research itself. Firstly, while a broad brush was used by the media to paint the link between red meat consumption and cancer, the study was specific to colorectal cancer. This opens up discussion about many other factors that may be implicated which will be discussed below. The other major study design issue was that the research failed to account for any other lifestyle related factors such as exercise levels and smoking, both of which are known to impact upon the development of bowel cancer. Without controlling for other factors, it is difficult to accurately describe the relationship between red meat consumption and cancer as causal in nature.

When studying gut health and the development of bowel cancer, there are other factors at hand that must be considered. First and foremost is the presence of inflammation in the gut, and indeed throughout the body. Inflammation damages the gut lining and can be associated with leaky gut disorders. The most common causes of inflammation in the gut area are inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis, as well as irritable bowel syndrome. Red meat is pro-inflammatory and hence if you have a pre-existing inflammatory bowel condition, high consumption of red meat will exacerbate this. Simple modifications can be used to ensure that your diet is more alkaline in nature and hence doesn’t promote inflammation.

Living in Australia, we commonly cook red meats using a barbecue. The problem with cooking red meat on the barbecue is that they often get “charred” and this can create damage to the bowel tissue. The good news is that this can be offset by the appropriate use of marinades and also by combining the red meat with foods such as broccoli which have a protective effect on gut health. Another strategy to manage the health of the gut is the use of probiotics which help to ensure that the body has the right balance of good bacteria in the gut that is essential for the normal digestion of food.

While the media like to sensationalise research, they often lose sight of the quality of the research and the finer details that help us to extrapolate the data obtained into practical changes. It is important to ensure that you take a look at the research with a finer comb or talk to a health professional to get the real picture.

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