Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
28 Oct

What Does the WHO Report Mean for Your Meat-Eating Habit?

Closeup of fried bacon strips on white plateI’m sure you’ve seen the rash of fear-mongering headlines proclaiming red meat to be as carcinogenic as smoking. In fact, I know so because dozens of you have asked me for my thoughts. What’s going on? Do we need to worry? What actually happened? Why have your vegan friends become even more smug than before? Why did your crazy aunt send an email in all caps pleading for you to stop eating “so much beef”?

Citing a short summary paper of a much larger study, earlier this week the World Health Organization (WHO) named processed meat a definite human carcinogen and red meat a probable human carcinogen. That’s frightening at first glance. I mean, the WHO? Great band, weren’t quite the same after Keith Moon died, but for my money they’ve always delivered quality health information. When they issue a report about dietary carcinogens, I listen up.

Let’s look at what the WHO actually meant. When they analyze a substance’s cancer-causing potential, the WHO places it into one of three categories:

  • Group 1, for “established carcinogens”—things like smoking, asbestos, nuclear bomb blasts, and, now, processed meat.
  • Group 2A, for “probable carcinogens”—your glyphosates, your UV radiation, your grass-fed lamb leg.
  • Group 2B, for “possible carcinogens”—judging from the list, almost everything qualifies here.

Whether something ends up in Group 1, 2A, or 2B depends only on the strength of the evidence, not the degree of risk. If a compound has been confirmed beyond doubt to increase breast cancer risk by 2%, it goes in Group 1. If a compound has a reasonable but not overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting that it increases breast cancer risk by 25%, it goes in Group 2A. The second compound is likely more dangerous and confers greater risk than the first compound.

Okay, so what is the actual degree of risk? In the paper, each additional intake of 100 grams (about a quarter pound) of red meat was associated with a 17% increase in colorectal cancer risk. 17%’s a big number. It’s almost 20%, which is basically 25%. Then you’re halfway to a 50% increase, and it only gets worse from there.

But that’s a relative risk. Though it’s the third most common cancer (and cause of cancer-related deaths), the absolute risk of developing colorectal cancer, even in old age when the risk is at its highest, isn’t exactly high. For the average 50 year old, his or her lifetime risk of colorectal cancer is 1.8%. If that 50 year old has a relative with colon cancer, the risk is 3.4%. Having two relatives with a history of colon cancer pushes it up to 6.9%. On the big scale of things that can kill you, colorectal cancer isn’t even in the top five.

Don’t get me wrong: colorectal cancer is deadly. Particularly if you have familial history of colorectal cancer, you should do your best to avoid it. It’s not a pleasant cancer. It’s just that the relative risk increase of 17% doesn’t amount to nearly as much absolute risk.

In addition, the epidemiology portion of the paper is based on data drawn from food frequency questionnaires (FFQ). FFQs require people to recall their typical diet over the last year. Here’s a sample FFQ (PDF); see how you do trying to recall the last 12 months. Suffice it to say, they aren’t very reliable. People lie. People forget. People tell you what they think you want to hear. FFQs are probably the best option available for assessing, but they aren’t good enough.

There’s also the fact that red meat suffers from an “unhealthy user bias.” Most heavy red meat eaters aren’t sprinting, lifting weights, and going for walks every day. They’re eating their meat between buns, and with fries. They’re getting their red meat from Burger King or the 7-11. They can try to control for most of these associations, but it’s impossible to account for everything.

Mechanisms for Carcinogenicity

That’s not to say the paper relies entirely on epidemiological research based on food questionnaires. They do propose a few mechanisms for meat-related carcinogenicity.

One is the formation of nitrosamines in the gut after consumption of nitrate-cured meats and red meat. Cured meats, like bacon and sausage, contain ample nitrosamine precursors and have been shown to create the carcinogenic metabolites when consumed. The iron in red meat also acts as a nitrosamine precursor.

Another is the formation of carcinogenic compounds during the processing, er, process. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and n-nitroso-compounds form during smoking and curing, respectively. Both are carcinogenic.

The last is the formation of carcinogenic compounds during high-heat cooking of meat. Grilling, sautéing, searing, and caramelization of red meat all have the potential to create heterocyclic amines and, over open flame, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The higher the temp and longer the application, the more carcinogenic the resulting meat. Well-done meat is more carcinogenic than rare-cooked meat, for example.

On one hand, these are definite carcinogens. The linked summary paper contains some strong references, and I’ve written about these very same compounds in previous posts.

On the other hand, the carcinogenic potential of red meat is mitigated by certain cooking and marinating techniques, and the risk can also be modified and even eliminated by the addition or subtraction of different foods to the rest of the diet. What are these?

Marinating your red meat using herbs, spices, garlic, onions, citrus, vinegar, wine, and even honey before high-heat cooking can reduce the formation of carcinogens.

Cooking in liquid. Simmer, braise, pressure-cook, slow-cook, steam—these “gentler” cooking methods reduce carcinogen formation. Doubly so if you incorporate some of the mentioned marinade ingredients into the process.

Eating green vegetables like broccoli with your meat can reduce the carcinogenicity of red meat-related compounds.

Eating antioxidant-rich foods with your meat. Drink tea and coffee, eat dark chocolate, consume berries, enjoy phytonutrient-rich spices like turmeric freely and wantonly. Plant foods often contain protective compounds that inhibit carcinogen formation (like nitrosamines) in the stomach.

Eating prebiotic fibers and resistant starch. In the original summary paper, they reference a study as evidence of red meat consumption causing colon cancer. Human volunteers who consumed 300 grams of cooked red meat each day showed evidence of pre-cancer metabolites in their poop. But the real finding was that adding 40 grams of prebiotic fiber to the 300 grams of red meat each day prevented the formation of those colorectal cancer indicators. The fiber used was a maize powder high in resistant starch. Any source of resistant starch should work—cold potatoes, potato starch, green bananas.

Could grass-fed/pasture-raised meat eliminate or reverse the association? Maybe. For one, pastured meat contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a healthy trans-fat with anti-cancer effects. Two, pastured animal fat tends to be naturally imbued with antioxidants from all the greenery the animals consume; this protects the fat from oxidation, and certain antioxidants found in pastured animal fat, like lutein, are even associated with lower risks of colon cancer in humans and actively reduce colon cancer in animal trials. But many of the proposed mechanisms for carcinogenicity apply equally to grass-fed red meat. I wouldn’t hang my hat on that one.

I would hang my hat on the following suggestions, however.

  1. Don’t live off bacon, hot dogs, and salami.
  2. The more red meat you eat, the more vegetation you should be eating. Make sure some of that vegetation contains prebiotic fiber, especially resistant starch. Maybe all that plant matter is unnecessary if you maintain a perfect carnivorous diet, but why risk it? Besides, plants are delicious.
  3. Learn to love rare steak. It’s way better, guys.
  4. Rely mostly on gentler cooking methods: steaming, simmering, braising, pressure-cooking.
  5. If you’re gonna sear or grill something over high heat, which is completely and utterly delicious and thus necessary from time to time, consider using a marinade—especially if you cook this way frequently.
  6. Have a healthy gut. Beneficial human gut bacteria can convert linoleic acid and fiber into the anti-colon cancer metabolites CLA and butyrate.
  7. Stick to healthier sources of red and processed meat—pastured/grass-fed red meat, bacon, sausage. The local farmer over Oscar Mayer.

If none of this assuages your worry, remember that we live in a quantum world where every food both gives you and protects you from cancer.

Personally, I’m not worried. There’s something there, but it’s not very big, and there are ways to get around it.

What about you?

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Don’t live off bacon?!
    Mark, I don’t think we have anything left to say to each other.

    Nick wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • You can have pork belly, which is essentially uncured bacon. Personally, I much prefer it over bacon. Cut it in 1″ pieces, fry it in a bit of avocado oil until well browned under medium heat, and 1 minute before it’s done, add salt, pepper, lots of oregano, and quite some lemon. Awesomest dish and one of my favorite ones in Greece (it’s essentially “souvlaki”, but in the frying pan instead of the skewers). Source: I’m Greek.

      Eugenia wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Love the sound of this. Do you keep the skin/rind on?

        Primal Lee wrote on October 29th, 2015
    • No, I think you’ll find Mark said don’t live off “bacon, hot dogs AND salami. Just bacon must be OK!

      Muffin The Moose wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • +1

        Colleen wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Mark, beef is great when pasture fed and the animals are in pennyroyal, plantain and other ‘weeds’ which give them a cross section of wondeful nutrients, a small portion lightly cooked is perfect protein, esp iron and B vitamin concentrations. Pork on the other hand, takes longer to digest ( 9 hours) and is more riskier to us humans for putrfiication. In NZ we have a pioneer attitude (still) to high meat intakes, after the U.S.A. the second highest colon cancer in the developed world, many of us with forebears who passed this way. Eating organic veges and eggs and other local produce is far better.

      Deborah wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • So what kind of magic does pork meat have to protect it from stomach acid? <.<

        Digestive issues aside, only plant fiber makes it through the stomach.

        Sofie wrote on October 30th, 2015
    • ^ Lol!
      I wasn’t too worried. I’m pretty good about alternating my protein, so red meat doesn’t come up more than twice a week between fish, chicken, and seafood. I also love my slow cooker. (PS: ok, Google tells me lamb is actually red meat… so I guess 3 times a week. I do freaking love lamb…)

      trillie wrote on October 29th, 2015
      • PPS: my “lol” was about the first comment, not the one right above me. Man, people are fast on here 😉

        trillie wrote on October 29th, 2015
  2. I especially enjoy your writing when you’re in a squirrelly mood. 🐷

    Karen wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Speaking of squirrel, Andrew Zimmern makes it sound delicious! The gentlemen squirrel hunter he was interviewing said he would throw a T bone aside to make room for more squirrel….sorry just had to share!

      Mamamiller3 wrote on October 29th, 2015
  3. I’ll still eat my chuck steak fried in coconut oil and marinated in vinegar.

    Jesse wrote on October 28th, 2015
  4. Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.” Such a boring phrase but just as true now as when some old Greek guy said it.

    Harry Mossman wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Everything?

      SunnySky wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Of course not. Deciding what moderation consists of for each food, activity, etc. is the hard part. For celiac Catholics, moderate gluten means the special wafers they make that have only a microscopic amount of it.

        Harry Mossman wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

        ― Oscar Wilde

        Bradley Ford wrote on October 28th, 2015
        • pretty sure that was mark twain 😀

          Tom wrote on October 29th, 2015
      • Of course, “everything” was a lot more limited and expensive back when the old Greek guy said it….

        Susan wrote on October 29th, 2015
    • Or, my favorite quote:
      “Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.”

      ― Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

      Alan wrote on October 28th, 2015
  5. They can have my red meat when they pry it from my cold, dead hands at the ripe old age of 80-something.

    Angel wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • I’m being fitted for a meat dress as we speak.

      Wenchypoo wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Me too, Angel. Say, haven’t we been through this sort of thing with eggs, which I never stopped eating? And weren’t those studies condemning eggs eventually debunked as total nonsense? There may be a grain of truth regarding the overuse of meats processed with nitrates/nitrites, but a good steak or prime rib? Extremely doubtful. These various food studies are always so flawed that I can’t believe anyone takes them seriously.

      Shary wrote on October 29th, 2015
  6. Unfortunately this is going to be used by the veganazis to ban meat from all sorts of places, especially school lunches. Soon they’ll be recommending portion sizes the size of your thumb. Expect meat taxes too, and higher prices for meat.

    And the “science” behind this is bunk:

    This also hurts farmers who raise these animals and the people who work in the processing industry, and their families. Remember back when dietary cholesterol was supposed to have caused instantaneous death from heart disease or stroke? Do you know how many egg/dairy farmers were put out by that one? Does anybody care? Does being a “scientist” mean never having to say you’re sorry?

    Another big problem is the way bodies like the WHO use terms like “risk”. When they use this term, it is merely a substitute for the word correlation. But when regular people hear the word “risk”, they understand it to mean causation.

    The Goat wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Yes, yes, yes! How many of these media health “scares” have destroyed how many industries?! I too am a fan of — really exposes the shoddiness of so much epidemiological research (among others). I also teach research methods, and I can’t tell you how many hours I spend trying to teach my undergrads the difference between correlation and causation!

      Dorothy wrote on October 28th, 2015
  7. Hi Mark,

    Regarding your point on high heat cooking – you specifically mention the way this affects red meat. Is it the same for fish? I eat minimal red meat (about once every 10 days or so – and always rare) so I’m not particularly worried about that. But I eat a lot of fish and the only way I cook it is pan seared (in high quality extra virgin coconut oil). Does pan searing fish also create carcinogenic compounds?

    Ryan wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Ryan,

      The fat on fish are mostly polyunsaturated, which means it oxidizes on high heat. That’s why cooking with fish oil is a disaster.

      Cooking fish also demands some precaution. Try to pan sear it at a lower temperature.

      Frank wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Thanks Frank – much appreciated! I’ll definitely lower the heat and find some different ways to cook my fish.

        Ryan wrote on October 29th, 2015
        • You are welcome Ryan.

          Fish cooks very fast. What I usually do is set the temperature to 150º Celsius, spread some olive oil with my finger on both sides of the fish, and when the pan is hot I put the fish in for about 1.5 minutes on each side.

          It will have a very fine grill and still be very juicy in the middle. It should look something like this:

          If you don’t like it a little raw in the middle, just cut a thinner fish slice. If you like thicker and well done, you can finish it in the oven.

          No need for more than 1.5 – 2 minutes on each side at 150o celsius.

          I also like to leave the pan completely dry and use the oil only on the meat!

          This is how I like to cook all my meat: (Jamie Oliver)

          It works very well with fish, pork and chicken as well!

          Frank wrote on October 29th, 2015
  8. You can live off of “un-cured” bacon…

    Chris wrote on October 28th, 2015
  9. I will take the risk.

    I would rather die in my 60s from stroke, cancer or heart attack than die in my eighties (after 10 years in a diaper) from diabetic amputations.

    Bill DeWitt wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • ME TOO!!!

      Jeanie wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Yikes, not eating meat causes one to wear a diaper and receive ‘diabetic amputations’.

      Ed wrote on October 29th, 2015
    • I used to agree but now the thought of passing in my 60s before getting to watch grandchildren grow up disheartens me. I think my primal diet will actually help me live to be 101.

      Alpha Foxtrot wrote on October 29th, 2015
  10. I put as much stock in the World Health Organization as I do in the United Nations – None!

    As soon as these power hungry organizations lock down our eating habits, we will be in big trouble. If you need an example of just how great these two organizations are doing, take a look at Haiti. The place is still in ruins.

    Mark Lopiccola wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Agree. I place about as much credence in WHO as I do in Wiley Coyote. A recent Credit Suisse report (that Mark led me to) has this to say about WHO: “Healthcare officials and government bodies have been consistently behind developments on the research front.
      Research showed that transfats were quite unhealthy as early as 1993, yet a full ban on transfats in the US will only happen in 2018…
      The stance of most officials and influential organization such as WHO or AHA is now well behind research in two main areas: saturated fats and polyunsaturated omega-6 fats.”
      Why is WHO 25 years behind the research? Because that is how long it takes good science to overcome the counter-current of politics and special interests.

      amaradodave wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Take a look at this article…

        It goes over the study and how the data was derived.

        Mark Lopiccola wrote on October 28th, 2015
        • Thanks for that link. It’s so dodgy. Makes you wonder who is shaking WHO’s hand, so to speak.

          Angie wrote on October 29th, 2015
      • I think they fingered the wrong culprit in trans-fats, too. At least one, CLA, is essential, and another, trans-vaccenic acid has been found useful in cardiac health. These two are components of meats and dairy–they’re primal.
        The trans-fats that caused problems were produced by processes such as hydrogenation that “ain’t anywhere near primal.” These processes produce HUNDREDS of bizarre compounds, too many for chemists even to identify them all. We’ll never know–or care–which of these cause all those cancers and heart problems in the nurses.

        Whether God or Evolution made us, or both, human chemists will never catch up to all the wisdom in a primal diet.

        Esther Cook wrote on November 1st, 2015
    • It seems they resort to this type of rooftop-shouting every 6 months or so just to get a little attention. This is what–the fourth or fifth time they’ve used this old canard?

      Wenchypoo wrote on October 28th, 2015
  11. “plants are delicious” – IMO very few of them except carb-heavy fruit and roots/tubers. I find most veggies as bland and flavorless, needing ample flavor additions/enhancements.

    brad wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • “I find most veggies as bland and flavorless, needing ample flavor additions/enhancements”

      Such as butter? Broccoli is one of the best butter delivery mechanism know to man.

      Myles wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Mmmmmm. Butter. *wipes slurpy dribbles from chin whilst running to cook broccoli*

        Pea Green wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • I don’t really like veggies either, but I will have a mouthful if served. They just aren’t good food to me.

      Vanessa wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • You’re doing it wrong – you have to fry them in bacon fat, along with your bacon. Silly.

      Primal Lee wrote on October 29th, 2015
      • a tab of quality *frozen* butter with nothing else is fine by me. Some how frozen is much better than room temp.

        brad wrote on October 29th, 2015
        • These are arguments why it seems implausible that paleo ancestors ate much of the green stuff. Roots and tubers, seems logical.

          brad wrote on October 29th, 2015
    • You said it, bro.

      Angel wrote on October 29th, 2015
    • Have you tried wild plants? There’s far more taste in them. Bishop’s weed (raw young leaves), nettle (in soup), white goosefoot (sauteed) are some of my favorites. See if you can find a book for local edible plants :)

      Sofie wrote on October 30th, 2015
  12. I’m staying the course with the red meat wagon. Because I love it and balance it out with lots of veggies, fasting, other protein – fish and fowl. Here’s to red wine!

    Whitney wrote on October 28th, 2015
  13. I see the good stuff I buy among processed meat, ie top quality sausages, uses sodium metabisulphate as the preservative. From what I read when consulting Dr. Google, that’s not a carcinogen. Sure, it has a fatal dose, but it’s 10g, which you’re never going to consume in one sitting. So I will stick with top quality bacon and sausages – on occasion.

    Stephen Lord wrote on October 28th, 2015
  14. Mark, you should make it clear what an increased relative risk of 17% means.

    If you have a 1.8% chance of getting cancer, then a 17% increase in that risk means that you now have a 2.1% chance of getting cancer. Meh.

    (0.018 x 1.17 = 0.021)

    Scott UK wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • YES!! Thank you. I wish for this point to be emphasized over and over. I’m certain people are hearing about this 17% increase and are imagining their cancer risk is increasing from 5% to 22% because they ate a hot dog the other day. That is not how percent increase is calculated. I don’t expect most folks will know this (or remember learning it oh so long ago) and it’s driving me crazy that no articles are pointing this out. I hope Mark updates his post to include this bit of math.

      Annie wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Scott,

      I like your post! Yes, by all means, do the math and you will have context.

      grisly atoms wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • +1

      Shary wrote on October 29th, 2015
  15. IF YOU’RE NOT growing your own veggies and raising your own livestock, you’re at risk for disease regardless and it’s because of today’s food growing practices whether it’s animal or vegetable, organic or not! AND IT’S ALL BEING KEPT PRETTY WELL HIDDEN! The true benefit of today’s grass fed meat (which isn’t always grass finished) greatly depends on how the soil that grows the grass is managed. The soil is often highly contaminated not just with runoff pollutants but with biosolids which originate from sources other than the actual grass fed animals consuming the grass. These BIOSOLIDS, sold as “organic” compost fertilizer, are usually from conventionally raised livestock that were fed antibiotics, hormones, and glyphosate-laden grain. Yes, these biosolids also contain processed human sewage sludge with all the preservatives and additives in conventional food, along with all the prescription meds mixed right in! This “organic compost” is what’s used to fertilize the fruit and vegetables we eat daily AND the greens for our “grass-fed” livestock! True, the life-force power of food is in the greens and we’re getting it second-hand when consuming animals, which could be good, if the whole process of growing the greens that the animals consume was good in the first place, but you really don’t know what you’re getting unless you’ve got a hand in that whole process yourself, from the soil management on up.

    DJ wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • And it doesn’t help that CORN IS A GRASS (botanically speaking)–rendering the term “grass-fed” almost as useless as the term “natural.”

      Wenchypoo wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • I couldn’t have explained that better myself, DJ… best reply yet!

      the father of ZEN wrote on October 28th, 2015
  16. When the mass media dumps on red meat, what they really mean is mass produced burger joint burgers and vacpack hotdogs with infinite shelf life. So when a “study” gets published to bash meat assume lowest quality meat served with a bleached wheat bun and corn sugar topping. This community rarely goes there so we have nothing to worry about. When serving grilled or fire roasted meats, I always prepare a fresh/raw grill sauce. This way tritip roast on the grill never gets old. Grill sauce consists of the following: fresh raw green herb, quality oil, allium, acid, and salt. Puree into a dense green sauce that sticks to meat and is alive with flavor and provides nutritional insurance against the potential harm of the charred bits.

    Chimichurri : flat leaf parsely, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt.
    Thai: Thai basil, coconut oil, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce.
    Southwest: Cilantro, avocado oil, green onion, Serrano chile, lemon/lime juice salt.
    Classic pesto: basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, salt.
    Greek: mint, olive oil, fresh Greek oregano, garlic, lemon juice, salt.
    Japanese: Roasted shishito peppers, light sesame oil, perilla leaf, green onion, rice wine vinegar, tamari.
    Sardinian: Arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies or capers but not both together.
    The combinations of greens/herbs, oil, acid, and salt are endless and add nutrient dense gourmet flavor that was surely absent from the WHO study meal plan.

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Yum tried this with broiled pasture raised pork chops so good.
      Handfull mint. Half handful oregano. Grated tumeric and ginger. Lime juice and olive oil salt. A huge hit with the family. Also good on the lard roasted root veggies that we also had. Thanks!

      gwen wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Oh and minced garlic in there too!

        gwen wrote on October 28th, 2015
  17. When I saw all these articles on French news pages, I especially re-read Denise Minger’s guest post. The arguments in this last study don’t sound very new anymore, but Denise’s post is still fun to read!

    Laurence wrote on October 28th, 2015
  18. It’s unfortunate that the WHO and other organizations spend huge amounts of money on virtually worthless studies, dutifully cherry pick their data, rely upon conventional thinking and waste peoples time. To ignore sound explainable science and the truth is just sad.

    Rob wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • This is what happens when the politics and the science don’t mesh. This is how we wound up with abysmal national dietary guidelines.

      Wenchypoo wrote on October 28th, 2015
  19. Mark, you’ve written exactly what I’ve been thinking regarding the WHO report; albeit with more data and eloquence. I’ve already had several friends/family members ask me about the news stories and how that will change my eating habits. Hint: Not at all! I’ll continue to eat local seafood (yay! Oysters are back in season!), pastured poultry, beef, and bison. I’m trying to learn to like lamb. Plus, we’ll keep eating a ridiculous amount of green veggies, squash, and mushrooms, along with our beloved alliums. I’ll take my chances over those of a SAD adherent.

    Jessica wrote on October 28th, 2015
  20. So sad that they use these studies to generate headlines rather than real and healthy advice. For steak, I use grass fed, marinated as Mark suggested, sear quickly on both sides then finish in a 200• oven. We love rare meat and this comes out perfectly every time, especially since I use a thermometer probe in the steak. If you cook low, it’s hard to mess up, you don’t get the 5-10 degree rise in temperature you can when you cook high temp. I somehow think this a bit different than a Burger King and fries option!

    BJML wrote on October 28th, 2015
  21. This is a great piece, Mark, and well-timed. People might also be interested in a piece Nora Gedgaudas just wrote, that delves into some of the other lines of argument that the unfortunate WHO news raises:

    Joe wrote on October 28th, 2015
  22. I’m curious why supplementing with glycine (or bone broth, etc) didn’t make the list of mitigating actions. Joel Brind and others make a convincing case that the lack of glycine (vs. methionine) in muscle meats is a major source of inflammation and hence pro-cancer.

    And in any case, if the incomparable Keith Moon had stuck to bacon, he would likely be here today, unless drum machines had caused him to end it all…

    Superchunk wrote on October 28th, 2015
  23. Can I still eat uncured bacon? I love Trader Joe’s uncured applewood bacon ends and pieces.

    fsrbaker wrote on October 28th, 2015
  24. 17% is almost 20%, which is basically 25%… I love that. That is Today Show info-tainment logic in a nutshell!

    Brad wrote on October 28th, 2015
  25. What this means for me? Put it this way, my lunch is 17oz of ground beef + 2 eggs. My dinner is about 9oz of steak with 3 eggs. I pity the people that avoid these nutrient dense foods in favor of low fat high sugar crap with no nutritional benefit.

    This just goes to show, you really can’t trust what are supposed to be the most trusted organizations out there. When the WHO makes such a bogus claim like they do, they literally should be disbanded on the spot.

    The only way processed or red meat will have any type of negative impact to the magnitude the WHO claims it will is if it’s laced with sugar (which some are). It’s easy to find sweetened processed meats, pepperoni with sweet flavoring, or pre-packaged red meat in whatever sweet marinade they decide to drown it in.

    Ironically when I first got wind of this story, it was being broadcasted on the news. They went on to claim it’s shown these meats have “x” impact on your health due to cancer. At the very moment they did that, they showed a spatula full of meat that was drowned in some type of sauce (you know it was sweet), then they placed it on a 2″ thick piece of bread.. I mean come on now.. really?

    Listening more to Gary Taubes book today (Good Calories, Bad Calories), I’m just at the part which makes perfect sense. Many of the populations on earth that dated back to the early 1900’s had very little instances of diseases like Cancer and diabetes. Sugar back in the early days was a tradeable commodity that was treated as something “rare”. Only after the tariffs were removed on sugar and it became more readily available to people to the point it was a staple in people’s diet; at that point, is when diabetes and cancer started to skyrocket in populations.

    The question is, why are all these previous studies ignored back from decades ago? Why is history ignored? Why do organizations like the WHO make such claims when clearly all the research is available back many decades ago. Is there something about red meat that makes it unprofitable to the point “some entity” want’s it limited in favor of foods that are more detrimental to health?

    Brian wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • I watched Dr Stephen Fung’s tutorials on Youtube. He is bringing out those hidden studies and showing us diabetics how to eat our good fats, meats, veges and fruits . . “like our grandmas did”. It is criminal how the big food companies and the drug companies can bury these studies – some done over a twenty year period. I have dropped sugar and all grains, lost three kilos without trying, am not hungry, have more energy, sleeping better etc. Going to stick to my old fashioned meats, fats and veges from now on. I never thought I would be able to give up sugar but now in my dreams I am refusing it.

      Pea Green wrote on October 28th, 2015
      • Sorry, lost my mind . . . Apologies to Dr *JASON* Fung. Whoops. Fancy misnaming a man who has done me so much good.

        Pea Green wrote on October 28th, 2015
  26. Right now my favorite compliment to a pan-seared steak is a lightly steamed broccoli crown, so I am doing all right! Just steam it until the color pops and it is as delicious as the meat, but in a different way.

    Plus, I take a vitamin c tablet with ever meal that has red meat, cured or uncured. My uncle taught me that. He has a doctorate in microbiology so I listen to his advice.

    grisly atoms wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Hey grisly atoms.

      That’s very interesting and why does your microbiologist uncle (how cool) know that. What’s the relation between vitamin c and red meat, cured or uncured? I’m a believer in vit c and take some every day.

      Pauline wrote on October 29th, 2015
  27. Who again? If to fortify what Mark said, here’s an excerpt from an opinion article at the NY times. “The report was approved by a majority of the 22 scientists from 10 countries who reviewed more than 800 studies of cancer in humans at the request of the agency, but the panel failed to reach a unanimous consensus, reflecting sharp differences of opinion among experts. The panel’s conclusions were based primarily on epidemiological studies linking what people ate with cancers they developed later. Often such studies can’t prove a causal link.” Frankly, I’m surprised the Times published this.

    I also like how Mark differentiated between relative to absolute risk. A risk of 1.8% is surely not as alarming as 17% (not that I advocate eating process meat or other) but what else is new. Just like advertising that 20% will benefit from taking Statins (forgive me for not remember the exact percentage but the claim is high), but when you break it down, it adds to 3 out of a 1000. And now if Who will excuse me, I’m going to gnaw on some unprocessed Bison jerky :-)

    Time Traveler wrote on October 28th, 2015
  28. Thank God you’re out there, Mark Sisson! Whenever these garbled science headlines come out, I always head for your website. You have an ultra clear, precise, analytical approach and you don’t miss the nuances.. And you share references. (Also a great offhand sense of humor that makes the info go down well!) Many thanks!!

    maidel wrote on October 28th, 2015
  29. The W.H.O. is a political organization first and foremost. Therefore any information coming from them is “political science”, and in this case bad science meant to deceive people.

    The important question is WHY?

    “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. ” Kierkegaard~

    As a truth seeker, I tend to follow what Mark is saying over the W.H.O.

    John Tregidga wrote on October 28th, 2015
  30. Mark L. wrote:

    ‘I put as much stock in the World Health Organization as I do in the United Nations – None!’

    This is exactly my thoughts. Aren’t these the same guys who previously told us that saturated fats cause heart disease?

    scott bushey wrote on October 28th, 2015
  31. To ANYONE WHO DOUBTS Mark Sisson, my name is Frank Smith, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic and eventually became insulin dependent a year after I followed my endochronogolists and the Americian Diabetes Associations recommendations. I listened, followed and lived every thing these folks told me to do, eating, exercise and medication. I followed their recommendations to the letter. As a result I gained weight, raised my insulin requirements and my HA1c went up and up and up! I found Mark through my own educational experience 1.5 years ago. What he teaches and advocates is controversial at the least, however I followed him and his program to the letter. Here are the results of my last blood work and visit with my doctor; HGA1c 5.1, Total cholesterol 165, Triglycerides 80, LDL cholesterol 86, testosterone 609, Uric Acid 5.6. For those reading that are not educated in these numbers I suggest you get up to speed on them. Additionally I used to exersize really hard, I mean really hard!!! I adopted Mark’s workout plan when I started his program. I’m better off now than I have ever been! I’m 50 years old and I’m right on target for my goals! Before Mark I tried everything else diet wise, I went full on vegan, cut my daily caloric intake to 600 calories, used the SAD (Standard American Diet) Mediteriainan Diet, South Beach and countless others, nothing worked except The Paleo Blueprint by Mark Sission! I’m in control now, I decide how far and fast I run, walk or ride! I can go DAYS at my pace! I hunt most of what I eat and gather the rest from trusted sources ! If you doubt this program you shouldn’t, two weeks on it and you will know it’s correct!!! I read and watched it all! This is the best, and easiest life style change out there and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot!!!

    Franklin W Smith wrote on October 28th, 2015
  32. Weren’t they the same organization who recommended a low fat diet with lots of cheap carbs.

    Storm wrote on October 28th, 2015
  33. Mark, what’s your take on cooking organic grass-fed meats such as brisket, ribs, shoulders, etc. in a smoker without searing at 250 degrees with hickory smoke as seasoning? Is smoking quality meat a risk? When I imagine eating a little bit of ash in my food it seems like a problem, but I love the taste. I generally eat a Paleo diet otherwise.

    Cal Wilder wrote on October 28th, 2015
  34. Even before this report from the EU, where science facts and research is leaving the US in the dust, I have cut way back on the amount of animal protein that I consume – and my annual physicals and health track confirms that we should eat lots and lots of plants and a little bit of animal protein.

    There is no question that vegetarians are healthier than the rest of us – but I’ll never be able to stop eating a rib eye every once in a while.

    Bacon, sausage, hot dogs – come on, processed meat is garbage and the WHO and EU know it. Here in the US, like sticking with guns we’ll go down blazing with red meat!

    Try living abroad and really test your US centric bias.


    Go2goal wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • I don’t know. I went vegetarian about a year ago because I watched one of those horrible videos about factory farming. I felt great for awhile, but this past spring, I had the worst seasonal allergies I’d ever experienced. By the middle of July, I developed asthma (at the age of 43) and my doctor put me on Advair. My annual bloodwork showed that my cholesterol had shot up from 165 (pre-vegetarian) to 216. I was also borderline deficient in iron and b12. I tried going full vegan, but my asthma got worse. I reluctantly started eating meat again at the end of August, and I’ve been eating mostly Primal (with lots of meat) for about a month now.

      I don’t know about my cholesterol, but I’ve been off the Advair for two weeks now, and I’m down to using my rescue inhaler once or twice a week instead of at least once almost every day.

      While some vegetarians may be healthier than some meat eaters, I certainly was NOT healthy as a vegetarian (and I followed all the rules – I limited the processed veggie burgers and such to once or twice a week, I ate a variety of plant foods, and I took a b12 supplement).

      JenBird wrote on October 29th, 2015
      • With you on that, JenBird. Since I went back to fats and meats with lots of veggies and berries etc. . . . I have not used my puffer at all. My diabetes is improving and I feel way more alert and upbeat. I am eating proper sized meals with no snacking, no sugar, no grains. I can’t believe how quickly I started to feel better. Vegetarian does not seem to suit me and even though my doctor is vegetarian, she is totally supportive and going to cut my daily meds down already. All the best to you for the future :-)

        Pea Green wrote on October 29th, 2015
  35. As you said, the WHO were a pretty good band, but as a “world health organization”, I have learned to take their advice with a grain (or two) of Himalayan salt… LOL…

    MR PALEO wrote on October 28th, 2015
  36. Thanks so much. Much needed words of wisdom once again…

    Tammie L wrote on October 28th, 2015
  37. Just because Michael said so doesn’t mean it’s true.

    Vegan Plus (pork chops) Dieter wrote on October 28th, 2015
  38. Great, so I DO have a close relative who died from colorectal cancer, and possibly another non-fatal case (I’m adopted, so have limited access to my medical history–second relative had cancerous polyps removed last I’d heard). So what does this mean for me?

    Nancy wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Research into the impact of vitamin D on colon polyps. In your shoes, I would be checking my D levels regularly, and making sure I took supplements if necessary to get up to a good level – more than the minimum.

      Lyn wrote on October 30th, 2015
  39. So how can it be that red meat is carcinogenic when it has been a dietary staple since animals and man came to exist?? Nope, I will not buy it and will continue to choose the best farmed meats I can in my area with confidence!

    Cindy wrote on October 28th, 2015
    • Yes Cindy, but all the animals and our ancestors ate it raw.
      Raw red meat is ok. The problem is how you cook it! High temperatures for too long will bring some carcinogenics compounds!

      There are too many people that will only eat very well done meat. This is an issue.

      Frank wrote on October 29th, 2015
  40. Thanks, Mark. There are points here worth memorising for Primal rebuttals to the WHO declaration. Another article which is full of information, especially regarding the importance of eating veggies with your meat, is this one by Sarah Ballantyne. Personally, we don’t eat bacon because I can’t find it without additives, conservatives, and number-coded molecules. If anything, I buy a bacon-cut fresh from the butcher, fry it up, and add a little salt. It does the trick. :-)

    Angie wrote on October 29th, 2015

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