“Unfit for Human Consumption”: Processed Meat Science vs. Spin

meat delicaciesWell, it sure got people’s attention, we’ll say that for sure. But is it accurate?

Last week a blog post from an organization called the Institute for Natural Healing picked up on one of the 10 AICR/WCRF Recommendations for the Prevention of Cancer first published back in 2007. That blog post has since gone viral (it’s been shared tens of thousands of times across many different social media platforms), and has attracted the attention of the news media, who have now approached us for comment.

Neither AICR nor our international partners, the World Cancer Research Fund, have any connection to the Institute for Natural Healing, whose website sells “natural” dietary supplements to treat conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease to male potency. (AICR/WCRF’s report and continuous updates have found that when it comes to cancer, it’s better to rely on whole diets, not dietary supplements, to reduce your risk.)

Last week’s INH blog post specifically spotlighted the AICR/WCRF recommendation to avoid processed meat (a category which includes hot dogs, sausage, bacon and cold cuts — for more information, see the AICR Blog post “What is Processed Meat, Anyway?”). That recommendation, at least, is real. It is the conclusion of an independent panel of leading scientists convened by AICR/WCRF who, following the largest, most comprehensive review of international research ever undertaken, judged the evidence that processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer to be convincing. This review was published in 2007 and was subsequently confirmed in 2011. Continue reading

Study: Are Scientists Overstating the Diet-Cancer Link?

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights why studying the link between diet and cancer is such a complex and often confusing prospect. It also illustrates why results from any individual study must always be examined in the wider context of the research that has gone before. (Which is, let’s just note here, precisely what AICR/WCRF’s expert reports and Continuous Update Project [CUP] do.)

Researchers at California’s Stanford Prevention Research picked 50 foods at random from a cookbook and entered them into a research database to see how many had been associated with cancer risk — either raising or lowering it — by individual studies. For 40 out of the 50 foods, their searches turned up studies that suggested some effect on cancer risk. Upon closer examination, the researchers concluded that many of these reported associations were weak — certainly too weak to justify someone concerned about cancer risk changing her/his diet to include or exclude the foods in question. Continue reading

Is Organic More Cancer-Protective? (And … Does it Matter?)

A study by researchers at Stanford University which appeared in Monday’s issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine hit on one of the biggest hot-button issues in nutrition today: organic foods, and their merits. Much of the media coverage has centered on what this large study says about the relative benefits of organic vs. conventionally grown foods in human health.

But that’s not what this study is really about. In fact, only 17 of the 240 studies examined by the researchers involved humans at all (the rest examined the nutrient profiles and pesticide levels of various foods). And of those 17, only 3 involved human health outcomes (eczema, wheezing and atopy, or “hyperallergenic” reactions). And any conclusions about the nutrient profiles of various foods will always be hampered by the fact that, as this NPR piece points out, the profiles of any two tomatoes sitting in the same pile in your grocery’s produce aisle will vary widely, for a host of reasons, regardless of whether they’re organic or conventional.

So it’s not quite the slam-dunk “Organics Are Not Healthier For You!” study some in the media are portraying it to be. It’s simply a serious analysis of the available literature, and it should be welcomed.

After the jump, some key findings of Monday’s study — and a call for cooler heads. Continue reading

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