Most of you have probably seen this week’s WHO headline-grabbing pronouncement on how eating processed meat and red meat is going to kill you. Before you go ahead and ditch your organic sausages or grassfed steak for some “tofurkey” or “facon”, PLEASE take a little time to look into this closer.
Every few months someone, or some organization, decides it is time to bring up the old (and might I add tired) “meat causes cancer” fear-mongering tactic. For some reason there is some agenda out there to try to convince people that this food (one that humans have been healthily eating for millennia) is going to kill us. Nevermind the GMO grains, refined sugars, weirdly processed soy-based fake foods and industrially manufactured seed oils – most of which get off scot-free because they are conveniently backed by Big-Agro corporations – yet ALL of which have actual real health-consequences.
Incidentally, the WHO (supposedly an organization who’s sole purpose is improving global health) has been found guilty of taking cash from Coca-Cola and Nestle, amongst others, to “plug holes” in its budgets so I, personally, take what they say with a large pinch of salt.
Now, rather than trying to refute this latest pronouncement myself, there are several well-written articles out already which explain the real story here, so for now I will direct you to read the following: http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2015/10/world-health-organisation-meat-cancer/.
This will put your mind at rest next time you decide to choose grassfed steak over tofu (*cough*yuk*cough*).
The author breaks it all down very simply and calls into question the following, amongst other points:
1. Where the data the WHO is siting actually comes from
There “findings are all based on “observational studies” that rely on a group of people to report what they ate over a time period, and then they try to draw out some correlations between certain commonalities. For starters, could you honestly accurately report exactly what you ate over the last year? Didn’t think so.
Anyone worth half their salt can see how flawed this system of carrying out a “study” is. None of these were randomized controlled studies.
2. They target one food vs. taking into account the overall diet/lifestyle
As she writes:
“By singling out red meat/processed meat in this way, the whole diet and lifestyle of a person is not taken into account. There is a world of difference between the health of a burger/hot-dog/ketchup/white bun/fizzy drink guzzling couch potato and a grass-fed-steak eating/CrossFit/six-pack Paleo specimen.”
As she showed in this blog, “the baseline for the processed meat eaters showed that they were far less active, had a higher BMI, were THREE TIMES more likely to smoke and almost TWICE as likely to have diabetes. This makes processed meat a MARKER of an unhealthy person, not a MAKER of an unhealthy person.
Even if all the smoking/exercise/other conditions baseline factors are adjusted for, there is no possibility of adjusting for all the dietary factors that make up the couch potato vs. the Paleo buff. The whole diet is not adjusted for when the one line (meat) is targeted.”
3. They fail to define the difference between real and processed food
There are huge differences between traditional methods of preserving meats (processed by natural means) vs. modern processing which entails the addition of all sorts of additives, including chemicals and sugars.
To quote her:
“As Peter Cleave, Surgeon Captain, (1906-1983) said: “For a modern disease to be related to an old fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard in my life.”
To think that real meat, or meat preserved in natural ways, is bad for us is ludicrous.
1) You’d have to explain how we survived the past 3.5 million years, since Australopithecus Lucy first walked upright; especially how we survived the ice age(s).
2) You’d have to explain why all the nutrients we need to live (essential fats, complete protein, vitamins and minerals) are found in meat if it were trying to kill us at the same time.”
4. They fall back on the old Association vs Causation tactic
In her words: “Even allowing for the weakness of observational studies, and the unreliability of dietary questionnaires, and the notion that food consumption can be a marker not a maker of health, and the whole dietary intake that has not been taken into account and the ignorance of the chasm between real and processed food, this is still association, not causation.
I always wish that these huge and expensive studies would ask what colour socks the participant is wearing. I bet I could find an association between red sock wearing and one type of cancer if I looked hard enough. Would the headline be red socks cause cancer?!”
To those of us who have bothered to do our own research, none of this will do more than annoy us with it’s blatant ignorance. But sadly, most people these days tend to do nothing more than read sensationalist headlines, and form their opinions based on a fleeting post they saw in Facebook, and THIS is where the real harm occurs.
I have already seen the WHO article posted dozens of times on social media with smug comments on how the person “knew it all along” without any bothering to dig a little deeper for the truth. This means many people will begin to cut healthy meats from their diets, putting themselves at risk for all sorts of deficiencies. Worse still, encouraging the eating of alternative, harmful foods which actually WILL cause cancer, diabetes and the like.
We have seen this happen with saturated fat (which is interestingly being retracted now), and we have seen our population’s health plummet as a result of this damaging false information.
As we have done before, we will continue to encourage you to eat real food (especially grassfed organic meats, naturally preserved meats, fish, organic vegetables and healthy fats), and to avoid processed junk made in factories by fake food companies.
I know I am going to go ahead and have a nice juicy grassfed steak for dinner!
If you are still worried, here are a couple more links of well-written articles to put your mind at rest: