managing an LCHF lifestyle in Israel
About once a year media headlines claim that eating meat causes cancer. This year too. Only with two differences: 1) this time it was not “any” study that caught the titles but not less than a survey by the WHO (World Health Organization) of dozens of studies and its conclusions, and 2) they separated “red meat” from “processed meat”.
But! As usual I have the radio on and thus in the background hear all the talk shows, so when one interviewer asked a professor about the research I could not but listen to the interview. For once the interview was not about how dangerous meat is but that WHO said one can eat meat, as long it’s the “right amounts”. A refreshing change!
What is processed meat?
This time the researchers came to the conclusion that there isn’t much evidence that ‘regular’ red meat is so carcinogenic however eating processed meat can be a cause of cancer.
“Processing” can be many things: cooking, frying, baking, pickling… Anything you do to a meat. But is that what they mean in observational studies? I doubt it. In them it generally refers to sausages and other meat products. So how do you prepare for instance pastrami? At home I take a piece of turkey breast and marinate it several days in water with spices like bay leaves and peppercorns. Yes there is salt added. Not terrible. Then I smear on olive oil, scatter sweet paprika, and bake the meat.
How is the pastrami you buy at the supermarket made? Putting aside the manufacturing process, here’s an sample ingredient list of one type on the market: turkey, water, maltodextrin, salt, processed starch, sugar, starch, stabilizers (caragenan, phosphates), acidity regulators (sodium acetate, potassium and calcium lactate), spices, flavourings, flavour enhancer (yeast extract), oxidation inhibitors (sodium aritorbat, rosemary acid, ascorbic acid), preservative (sodium nitrite). And for the coating they use food colourings (annatto, caramel).
And the question?
I do not know whether the professor studied nutrition or not. I do hope he learned some about scientific research and the differences between observational and clinical research studies. I doubt if the interviewer knows the difference. Why do I doubt it? Because had he known, he would probably also ask questions about the types of studies, what is processed meats, and perhaps maybe he would even have asked “How do you know it’s not the additives such as starches and sugars and various preservatives and flavourings that causes the cancer?”