East less tuna, drink more red wine, drink less red wine, cut out salt, eat five a day, eat seven a day, go vegan, drink soya milk instead of dairy.
Every day we are bombarded with new information about what we should and shouldn’t be eating to keep us fit and healthy.
This week it is meat that is under attack.
More specifically according to some media outlets, it is bacon, ham and salamis which have been deemed to be as big a cancer threat as cigarettes.
Confusing the consumer
But in our humble opinion what we are reading isn’t new at all. All this latest hype around red meat and processed meats just serves to confuse the consumer so that they are even more bamboozled as to what one can or cannot eat.
The report was produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization.
And yes the report does say that processed meat has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans”.
It says that experts concluded that each “50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%”.
It also says that developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat “remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”
And it goes on to say that the findings of the report supports current public health recommendations to limit the intake of meat but also points out that red meat does have nutritional value.
What irritates me however is the media who have picked through the report and excuse the pun, only chosen the meaty parts which will make people pick up the papers and read.
And this is where my point about this news being new come in.
When you read between the lines, what the report actually says is to have a balance diet.
Yes I imagine if you chowed down on a diet of bacon butties, ham sarnies and steaks every day you would get quite poorly – but how many people actually do that?
Just as you would be equally as poorly if all you ate was lettuce every day. Maybe not in the same way, but your body would be lacking what it needs in nutrients to keep it healthy.
Thankfully there has been some balanced and considered reporting from Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) who has also pointed out that the IARC report clearly recognises the nutritional benefits of eating red meat – something which many of the newspapers and TV stories haven’t done.
He goes on: “It is equally important to consider the background to this report. The IARC has looked at over 900 substances since 1971 and decided that all, apart from one, is at least capable of causing cancer in certain circumstances. These substances include such diverse products as coffee, paint, hairdressing products and talcum powder.”
The QMS advice is that meat should be eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet and their report points out that the IARC’s findings are not based on any new evidence from any new research. The government looked at the same evidence in 2010 and recommended people eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day and that’s exactly what the vast majority of us are eating.
Jim adds in his report: “Avoiding red meat could in fact be detrimental to health – for example around 40% of women and teenage girls have iron intakes which are too low. Red meat is a natural source of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins and we should continue to enjoy it in the knowledge that it plays a vital role in our diets.”
He also pointed out that vegetarians were found to have the same rate of bowel cancer as meat eaters in one of the biggest studies of its kind in the UK carried out by Oxford University.
Hear, hear that man – now where’s my steak!