In a rare bit of good news for red-meat lovers, a study of nearly a half-million people from 10 European countries has found no link between eating red or processed meat and risk of bladder cancer. The research is said to be the first to also look at cancer risk and two key constituents of red and processed meat: nitrosamines (compounds formed in the digestion of nitrates and nitrites added to processed meat such as bacon) and a type of iron, heme iron, found in red meat.
Paula Jakszyn, PhD, of the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Spain, and colleagues used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study. The researchers conceded that a connection between red and processed meat and bladder cancer is biologically plausible. But it didnt show up in the data on 481,419 people over almost nine years. The study found no increased risk of bladder cancer with greater intakes of red meat, processed meat, nitrosamines or heme iron.
No cancer link was found regardless of gender, smoking status, occupational status or type of bladder cancer. Nor was there any extra risk associated with fresh meat or processed meat when these were analyzed separately.
Previous research, along with a 2007 World Cancer Research Fund report, has pointed a finger at red meat and especially processed meat as a risk factor for cancer. And despite their findings, Jakszyn and colleagues cautioned, Considering the biological plausibility of an association between red meat intake and bladder cancer risk, further investigation is warranted given the limited available evidence.
TO LEARN MORE: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, March 2011; abstract at dx.doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0971.
|UK Advises Cutting Down on Red Meat
Although the 2010 US dietary guidelines shied away from an expert committees recommendation that Americans move to a more plant-based diet, the latest British advice is more blunt about reducing red-meat intake. In its first update on meat consumption since 1998, the UKs Department of Health advised people to eat no more than 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of red meat per week, or 70 grams (2.5 ounces) daily. Thats a sharp decrease from previous recommendations to limit consumption to 90 grams a day, which also said that only Britons averaging more than 140 grams of red meat daily needed to worry. The change was prompted by a report from the independent expert Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which concluded that eating red and processed meat likely increases the risk of bowel cancer. The health departments chief medical officer said, Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet…. But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down.