Can eating less meat lower risk of cancer?

06/24/2010 12:00 AM |

The following questions and answers are presented by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Q: Are only processed meats like sausage and hot dogs linked to cancer risk?

A: No. The large, ongoing European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study has analyzed the effect of red meat and processed red meats separately. People who ate the most fresh red meat — more than 2.8 ounces a day — had a 17 percent greater risk of colon cancer than those who ate the least. The same amount of processed red meats caused an even greater increase in risk. Sodium and nitrites or nitrates alone may make processed meats a greater cancer concern. Fresh red meat, however, may damage the DNA of colon cells and increase the formation of certain cancer-causing compounds within the gut.

If you want to eat red meat, you should choose lean cuts and cook them at moderate temperatures. The American Institute for Cancer Research also recommends that you limit your consumption of red meat to three ounces a day. By filling most of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans that are full of nutrients and good flavor you will easily feel satisfied with a small amount of meat.

Q: Why are there stricter limits on eating red meat?

A: AICR recommends limiting your consumption of red meat to no more than three ounces a day because greater amounts of it are linked to an increased cancer risk. Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork and veal. The difference in risk between red and white meat seems to involve a specific protein that is more abundant in red meat.

Q: What is protein’s role in weight loss?

A: Protein may play a role in weight loss, but current research does not suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are the way to obtain benefits. The high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets that had good results in the early weeks of long-term studies showed no advantage over balanced plans at the end. A current theory of appetite control suggests that high-fiber foods help fill us up, while a moderate amount of protein keeps us feeling full longer. This combination of an abundance of high-fiber foods — vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans — with a smaller amount of protein offers an eating pattern that can help us cut back on how many calories we eat, so we can lose weight.

The American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C., is a charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.