red meat

Red and processed meat increases risk of bowel cancer: study

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Consumption of red and processed meat, even in moderate amounts, is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer, according to a five-year study conducted by the UK Biobank. Included in the category of “processed meat” are sausage, bacon and ham.

Based on its findings, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has recommended that individuals eating 90g or more of red or processed meat daily reduce their intake to 70g or less, the Guardian reports. Ninety grams is roughly equal to “around three thinly cut slices of beef, lamb or pork, where each slice is about the size of half a piece of sliced bread,” according to the National Health Service.

The study in question found that, compared with people who ate an average of 21 percent of red or processed meet per day, people consuming 76g of red or processed meat per day were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.

From the Guardian report:

“The risk increased by 20 percent with each extra slice of ham or rasher of bacon (roughly 25g) the study participants ate, and by 19 percent with each thick slice of roast beef or the edible part of a lamb cutlet (about 50g).”

The Biobank study confirmed previous studies that also established a direct link between consumption of red and processed meat and bowel cancer.

Dr. Gunter Kuhnle of Reading University stated that the study took into account the alleged role played by nitrite in increasing cancer risk:

“The results of this study also question the recent focus on nitrite as the main culprit for colorectal cancer: the authors found very small differences between red and processed meat in this study, even though only processed meat contains nitrite.

“A reduction or removal of nitrite from meat products would therefore have only little impact on cancer risk. An increased consumption of fibre, as shown by this study, would be of considerably more benefit.”

The study also found a link between heavy alcohol consumption and bowel cancer.