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My Beef with Beef

Posted By Mark Sisson On November 15, 2006 @ 3:12 pm In Big Agra,Health,Nutrition,Prevention,Women's Health | 2 Comments

I can’t tell you how furious I am about what I feel is the meat industry’s blatant disregard for human health. While I’m no vegetarian [7], I saw this study in the Archives of Internal Medicine [8], and let’s just say, I’m not buying the “Happy Cows” line.

The researchers looked at 90,000 women. That’s a huge study. They compared US and UK women, and here’s what they found:

Eating more than 1.5 servings of meat daily doubles a young woman’s risk of breast cancer. What concerns me is the type of cancer which had double the risk: hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. To me, that says something pretty sobering about the meat industry’s production habits.

Both the study, and the BBC News [9] article that covered it, are cautious to merely “suggest” a link between eating red meat and increasing – doubling – the risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines here.

The reason I think this study is really important to highlight is not because I hope to bandy a statistic like “double the risk!” about. (Remember the Statistics Game: always consider context and relative risk or results.) It’s important because the women who ate high amounts of red meat had double the risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. That is a big issue, namely, because the American meat industry uses growth hormone like it’s manna from Heaven. Growth hormone helps the animals get bigger, faster, which translates more profit – but I’m pretty skeptical about how this practice could possibly be in the interest of public health. I just wonder how these people sleep at night knowing their profits come at the expense of other human beings.

Personally, I believe it’s clear that human physiology supports being omnivorous [10]. No culture anywhere at any time has done without some sort of animal flesh, whether it’s fish, beef or reindeer. So I’m not “anti-meat”. However, I am strongly opposed to the way meat is produced in this country: quickly, unethically, with little regard for the animals or the people eating the animals. That’s why I only buy meat that is free-range, local, organic and definitely hormone-free.

The researchers were careful not to draw any ultimate conclusions. I think we can probably begin to draw our own, with some additional critical considerations:

1) Processed meats generally contain a chemical known as heterocyclic acid, which has been shown to cause cancer;

2) Red meat, of course, contains iron, which can sometimes encourage the growth of some types of tumors (though this isn’t a significant concern, likely);

3) The standard line: “The biggest risk factors for breast cancer remain gender and increasing age.” This from specialist Maria Leadbeater, quoted in the BBC article [9]. Fair enough.

Technorati Tags: breast cancer [11], beef [12], red meat [13], cancer [14], factory farming [15], growth hormone [16], omnivore [17], Maria Leadbeater [18], BBC [19], hormone receptor [20], heterocyclic acid [21], risk factors [22]


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[8] Archives of Internal Medicine: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/

[9] BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6143408.stm

[10] omnivorous: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-6a.shtml

[11] breast cancer: http://technorati.com/tag/breast+cancer

[12] beef: http://technorati.com/tag/beef

[13] red meat: http://technorati.com/tag/red+meat

[14] cancer: http://technorati.com/tag/cancer

[15] factory farming: http://technorati.com/tag/factory+farming

[16] growth hormone: http://technorati.com/tag/growth+hormone

[17] omnivore: http://technorati.com/tag/omnivore

[18] Maria Leadbeater: http://technorati.com/tag/Maria+Leadbeater

[19] BBC: http://technorati.com/tag/BBC

[20] hormone receptor: http://technorati.com/tag/hormone+receptor

[21] heterocyclic acid: http://technorati.com/tag/heterocyclic+acid

[22] risk factors : http://technorati.com/tag/risk+factors

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