Christian Jessen’s red meat advice

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Red meat: a cancer risk factor?
Red meat: a cancer risk factor?

I blogged earlier in the week about a Daily Mail article questioning the link between red meat and cancer without mentioning that the review it was based on was funded by the meat industry.

In yesterday’s Evening Standard, Dr Christian Jessen also mentioned this review. And, like the Mail, he failed to mention that it had been funded by the meat industry.

We think this is an important piece of information that consumers would find useful when deciding how to judge the review’s findings.

In our view, this meat industry-funded review does not alter the conclusions of an independent expert panel that there is strong evidence that red meat increases risk of bowel cancer.

Dr Jessen suggests that a reason for the increase to cancer risk from red meat may be the fat content. But actually, there is little evidence for this.

It is true, as he also suggests, that one of the possible reasons is the overcooking of red meat, but this is only one theory.  Another one is that the increase to cancer risk comes haem iron, the substance that gives red meat its colour.

This means Dr Jessen’s implication that people can negate any increase to bowel cancer risk by choosing lean cuts of meat and not overcooking them is quite likely to be wrong.

He is correct, though, to say that red meat contains valuable nutrients.

This is why we do not suggest avoiding it, but instead recommend that people limit consumption to 500g (cooked weight) per week.

People are particularly likely to take seriously what doctors say. We think this article is a missed opportunity to help remove the unnecessary confusion in the public’s mind  on the science behind the links between red meat and cancer.

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