Processed meat and cancer

 The World Cancer Research fund already have clear guidance on bowel cancer and meat. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, goat and hamburgers, mince meat. The guidance is for 500g cooked weight a week, 700g raw weight. That works out about 70g a day cooked weight if you eat a bit every day, or you could have a 145g medium steak on one day and a meat free day the next. 

There is no safe level of processed meat that WCRF has set. That's anything that has been preserved by smoking, curing or salting or by adding chemical preservatives such as nitrites. This includes ham, bacon, salami, pastrami, hot dogs and some sausages or burgers (not if they are made with quality unprocessed meat). 

However, there is nothing to be alarmed here. If you are eating high amounts of these foods, this is just a nudge to reduce to lower levels to keep your diet in balance. If you already have them occasionally alongside a healthy diet then you are doing fine. 

The link to cancer could be due to many reasons - such as these groups may eat less of the protective plant foods and wholegrain that not only increase antioxidant and phytonutrient protection, but also speed up the bowels, keeping you regular, so food and any carcinogens passes out of the body quickly and leaves less time in contact with the bowel. 

Another reason is that the chemicals used to preserve the processed meats cause cancer causing substances such as nitrosamines as they pass through digestion. Cooking meat to high temperature produces carcinogenic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The haem compound within red meat, that's the iron containing part itself may be another reason, possibly linked to damaging the bowel lining. 

However, these foods, particularly the quality lean cuts of red meat when eaten in standard small portions are a rich source of protein, iron and zinc, which are important for your muscle, immune system, growth and repair. So eaten along with plenty of the fresh protective colorful vegetables, salads, high fibre wholegrains such as oats, barley, wholegrain bread and pasta, beans and pulses and fruit all combine together to make a healthy cancer protective balance.

Here's my interview on Channel Five news