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Red Meat Associated with Many Different Diseases

Eating red meat has been associated with at least 26 different types of cancers. Cooking meat at high temperatures without water forms Advanced Glyction End products (AGEs), which have been shown to cause cancers in humans and many different animals. The authors of a new study asked whether it is red meat or the cooking method that increases cancer risk?They analyzed data from many studies conducted in Italy and Switzerland between 1991 and 2009 and found that eating red meat is the major risk factor for several different cancers, although cooking without water can increase cancer risk even more. They recommend limiting red meat consumption in Western countries (Annals of Oncology, published online Oct 11, 2013).

  • Eating red meat daily was associated with a very significant increased risk for cancers of the mouth and throat, nose, voice box, esophagus pancreas, breast, inner lining of the uterus, and ovaries.
  • Frying meat was associated with increasing risk even more for cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.
  • Prostate cancer risk increased for meat cooked by roasting or grilling.
  • Nose, mouth and stomach cancers increased even when meat was boiled or stewed. This suggests that it is the red meat that is associated with cancer, even if the meat is cooked in water and no AGEs are formed.

The studies included 1465 oral and pharyngeal, 198 nasopharyngeal, 851 laryngeal, 505 esophageal, 230 stomach, 1463 colon, 927 rectal, 326 pancreatic, 3034 breast, 454 endometrial, 1031 ovarian, 1294 prostate and 767 renal cancer cases. Controls included 11,656 patients admitted for acute, non-cancerous conditions.

How Cooking Method May Increase Cancer Risk Even More
Cooking at high temperature without water causes sugars in foods to stick to protein, fat or nucleic acids to form sugar-protein and sugar-fat complexes called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). The higher the temperature, the more AGEs are formed. AGEs turn on your immunity to cause inflammation, which prevents your body from responding to insulin, raises blood sugar levels and increases cancer and heart attack risk.

The temperature of foods cooked with water can never exceed 212 degrees, and water-based cooking methods allow water to combine with the sugars which prevents the sugars from attaching to proteins, nucleic acids and fats. Examples of cooking with water include boiling, steaming, simmering or stewing.

Red Meat Associated with Diabetes
A prospective study of 41,000 men and women in the United States and Canada who were not diabetics shows that after two years, meat eaters are more than four times more likely to develop diabetes than those who do not eat meat (Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, 2013;23:292-299). The probable explanation is that saturated fat in red meat blocks insulin receptors to make cells less able to respond to insulin.

Another study of 149,000 men and women in the United States showed that increasing the amount of red meat that you eat can increase your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes by 48 percent over four years. Gaining weight increases the risk even more. Reducing red meat consumption by more than a half serving per day was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk (JAMA Intern Med, published online June 17, 2013).

North Americans eat 166 pounds of meat per person per year. Many other studies show that the animal saturated fats, iron, zinc, nitrosamines and other components of red meat are associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart attacks, and cancers.

My recommendation: Replace the red meat in your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts and seafood.

Updated 2/1/14

October 20th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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