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Processed Meats Classified as Cause of Cancer

Each 1.75 ounces (50 gm) of processed meat increases risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer released an evaluation of red and processed meat consumption that has created a small media frenzy. An international group of scientists, after a careful review of the accumulated data, has classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence, and red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans based on limited evidence. 

PositiveTip: The most wholesome diet continues to be largely plant-based without the use of processed meats.

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Red Meat Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk

Consumption of red meat by young women increases breast cancer risk.

One serving a day of read meat consumed by women during adolescence was associated with a 22% higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer. The same single serving consumed during early adulthood increased the risk by 13%. During this age period mammary glands are the most susceptible to carcinogen exposure. Researchers accounted for all major risk factors.

PositiveTip: Red meat is not the only risk factor for breast cancer. A healthy lifestyle without alcohol or smoking with physical activity is very helpful too!

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Red Meat Raises Risk of Breast Cancer

Consumption of red meat in young adult women raises risk of breast cancer.

Eating large amounts of red meat in early adulthood increased the risk of breast cancer. Red meat consumption was analyzed for almost 90,000 women in the Nurses Health Study II. Those consuming the largest amount experienced a 22% increase in breast cancer risk compared to those eating the least. Swapping out red meat for legumes or poultry at one daily meal made a significant reduction.

PositiveTip: Replace red meat with legumes and other vegetable proteins to lower the risk of breast cancer.

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Diabetes Risk and Red Meat

Increasing intake of red meat associated with type 2 diabetes.

Increasing red meat consumption may be associated with the development of type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Researchers analyzed data from 149,000 individuals with up to 20 years follow-up. Red meat consumption was analyzed every 4 years by validated food frequency questionnaires. Those who increased their red meat consumption by one-half serving per day experienced a 48% higher risk of developing T2DM compared to those who did not change their consumption. This finding was independent of weight gain.

PositiveTip: Avoid increasing intake of red meat to reduce risk of T2DM--or all together.

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Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer Survival

Eating red and processed meats decreases the risk of colorectal cancer survival.

Evidence is convincing that consuming red and processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer. New research suggests that greater consumption before diagnosis is associated with a higher risk of death after diagnosis. Those who ate the most red and processed meats prior to and after diagnosis experienced 79% higher mortality compared to those who ate the least.

PositiveTip: Make sure your diet is composed of mostly plant-based foods for optimum health!

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Eat Less Red Meat to Cut Diabetes Risk

Reducing red meat consumption by 1/2 serving daily reduces risk of diabetes.

Increasing the intake of red meat by more than one-half serving daily during a 4 year period was associated with a 48% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes (P<0.001) compared to those who made no change. This study involved more than 150,000 participants. Reducing red meat intake by the same amount lowered risk by 14%, but this benefit took about 14 years to be detected.

PositiveTip: Cut back on red meat consumption to reduce long-term risk of type 2 diabetes.

Prevent Your Own Cancer

Nearly 50% of all cancer deaths can be prevented. It is reliably estimated that lifestyle and environmental factors are responsible for 42% of the cancers in the United Kingdom. What is true in the UK is likely to be true in much of the industrialized world. 

The research looked at the contribution to cancer made by tobacco, unhealthful foods in the diet, obesity, alcohol, lack of exercise, industrial exposures, radiation and several other factors that make a small contribution to cancer. 

Of the 314,000 cases of cancer in the UK in 2010, 134,000 were preventable. Tobacco caused 60,000 premature cancer deaths.There were 29,000 cancers caused by eating red meat or a lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Obesity was responsible for another 17,000 premature cancer deaths. Alcohol drinking caused 12,000 premature deaths.

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Diabetes and Red Meat Consumption

Just one serving of red meat daily increases type II diabetes risk by almost 20%.

In the largest study of its kind (204,157 participants followed for 20+ years), Harvard University researchers have found that using whole grains, nuts or low-fat dairy such as yogurt to replace one daily serving of red meat can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16-35%. Eating only 4 ounces of red meat per day raised the risk by 19%. Using processed meats like hot dog or sausage increased the risk by 51%.

PositiveTip: Sugary sweets and sodas are not the only thing that increases the risk of diabetes--limit your red meat consumption to lower your risk.

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Red Meat Raised Risk of Stroke in Swedish Women

Women eating the most red meat had highest risk of stroke.

The connection between eating red meat and the risk of ischemic stroke was assessed in a study of more than 34,000 Swedish women. After an average followup time of 10.4 years, the women who consumed 3.6 ounces (102 g) or more daily had 42% higher risk for stroke compared to those who ate 0.9 ounces (25 g) or less daily.

Women who had never smoked and did not have diabetes but ate the most red meat still had a 68% higher risk. These results are also consistent with findings from the Nurses' Health Study.

PositiveTip: Cutting back or eliminating red meat intake appears to reduce the risk of stroke in women.

Red Meat and Strokes in Women

About 80 percent of strokes are caused when the brain loses blood supply because arteries are blocked. While eating red meat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, several types of cancer, and high blood pressure, the connection between red meat in the diet and stroke has been less certain until now.

In December 2010, the journal Stroke published a study examining the link between eating red meat and stroke in 34,670 Swedish women from 39-73 years of age. All were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease in 1997 at the beginning of the study.  Over the 10 year study, there were 1,680 strokes in the group.