Red and processed meat
The current consensus, based increasingly on the few prospective studies that are
the least susceptible to biases, is that high consumption of red meat and processed
meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal and possibly pancreatic, prostate,
and stomach cancers. When meat is processed by smoking or by adding preservatives
such as salt or sodium nitrite, the added compounds cause the increased risk.
In 2015, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs
Programme classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic,
and processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient
evidence that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer. The
IARC concluded that each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases
the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Because of this increase in cancer risk and
cardiovascular health risks, it is best to avoid bacon, sausage, lunchmeats, hams, hot
dogs, and other processed meats.
Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies in animals have found that
these fatty acids may stop cancer from forming or slow its growth, but it is not clear
if they can affect cancer risk in humans. The well-designed VITAL clinical trial of high dose (1 g per day) supplementation
with omega-3 fatty acids did not result in a lower incidence of major
cardiovascular events or cancer than a placebo.
Studies suggest that dietary fiber from good sources such as beans, vegetables,
whole grains, and fruits is linked with a lower risk of some types of cancer, especially
colorectal cancer. Although a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
does not appear to be as strongly protective against cancer as was thought previously,
these dietary components have benefits for protection against overweight, diabetes,
and cardiovascular disease, and they may offer some protection against cancer.
Vegetarian diets may lower cancer risk. Typically, they are low in saturated fat and
high in fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals, and do not include eating red and processed
meats. More research on fruits, vegetables, phytochemicals, dietary fiber,
and cancer is needed, but it is still prudent to eat at least 2½ cups of a variety of
colorful vegetables and fruits each day.
Consumption of nuts has been found to be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular
disease, total cancer, all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory
disease, diabetes, and infections. In a meta-analysis of 20 studies, a one-ounce (28
grams) per day increase in nut intake over those who ate little or no nuts was associated
with a 29% decreased risk of coronary heart disease, a 21% decreased risk of
CVD, a 15% lower risk of all cancers, and a 22% lower risk of all-cause mortality.
There is some doubt about the findings of this study because the intake of nuts is
Although it cannot be considered definitive, a 2014 British study of 1,806 prostate
cancer patients and 12,005 men without prostate cancer found that the more that
diets contained tomato products and other plant-based foods, the greater the reduction
in the risk of prostate cancer. Consuming 10 or more servings of tomatoes and
tomato products per week was associated with an 18% reduced risk for prostate
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel