There is no reason to eat less red meat for health reasons, according to a controversial claim by a group of leading scientists.
Researchers in Canada, Spain and Poland have cast a shadow over nutritional advice from health organizations around the world.
In a milestone, academics analyzed earlier studies on how eating meat affected the health of more than four million people.
They found no evidence that eating beef, pork, and lamb could increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, or type 2 diabetes – despite fears.
And the team also said they didn't find anything strong enough to indicate that people should eat less red meat, and added that the quality of the evidence was too low for findings.
Civil servants have tried for years to encourage dietary changes – the NHS suggests that people limit themselves to 70 g of red meat per day, about 1.5 slices of bacon.
Scientists in the UK have been torn apart about the research and describe it as & # 39; very good quality & # 39; but hesitate to agree to tell people to eat less meat.
The NHS recommends that people limit themselves to 70 grams or less of red meat per day because eating many of them probably increases the risk of colon cancer. 70 g corresponds to about one lamb chop, one pork sausage, half a beef burger or one and a half slices of bacon
The study was a series of five reviews from previous research conducted by scientists from the Dalhousie and McMaster universities in Canada and the Cochrane research centers in Spain and Poland.
It considered 61 studies that had monitored the health of more than four million people, as well as 12 studies that attempted to change the diet of about 54,000.
The team found the results of earlier research to be of poor quality to make suggestions about the way people lived their lives.
As a result, a panel of 14 experts from seven countries said that people should continue to eat the current average amount of red meat.
This was between three and four servings per week for North Americans and Europeans, they said.
In an editorial published alongside the newspapers, Dr. Aaron Carroll and Dr. Tiffany Doherty of the University of Indiana wrote: & # 39; The general recommendations, unlike almost all other existing ones, suggested that adults maintain their current level of continue to eat red and processed meat unless they tend to change them themselves.
& # 39; This is certainly controversial, but it is based on the most comprehensive assessment of evidence to date.
& # 39; Because that assessment is inclusive, those who try to dispute it will be pressed hard to find appropriate evidence to build an argument. & # 39;
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF EATING TOO MUCH RED MEAT?
Red meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – and processed meat – such as bacon, sausages and meats – have been associated with health complications.
The NHS therefore recommends that adults reduce their intake to 70 g per day and not more than 90 g.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that we consume no more than three servings of red meat per week.
It also encourages us to avoid & # 39; processed meat & # 39 ;.
Processed meat often contains nitrogen-based preservatives that prevent it from going off during transport or storage.
These preservatives have been associated with both colon and stomach cancers.
When red meat is digested, the pigment layer in our gut is broken down to form chemicals called N-nitroso compounds.
These compounds have been found to damage the DNA of cells that line our digestive tract, which can cause cancer.
Our body can also respond to this damage by allowing cells to divide faster to replace the lost cells.
This & # 39; extra & # 39; Cell division can increase the risk of cancer.
Red and processed meat has also been associated with type 2 diabetes.
This may be due to the preservatives used or the higher content of saturated fat in the meat than chicken and fish.
The researchers from Indiana even suggested that scientists should stop doing studies to try to see the effects of meat just by people.
The reason the previous results were so weak, they said, was that studies were so vague that there was no way to show a direct link between meat and health.
Experts are divided as to whether they agree with the paper or are mistaken.
Professor Tim Key, of the University of Oxford, said: & There is substantial evidence that processed meat can cause colon cancer – so bad that the World Health Organization has classified it as a carcinogen since 2015.
& # 39; Today's new publication reports are essentially identical to the existing evidence, but describe the impact very differently, contrary to the general consensus among cancer research experts.
"Recent estimates suggest that more than 5,000 people in the UK develop colorectal cancer as a result of the consumption of processed meat each year. Therefore, the government recommends that people keep their total intake of red and processed meat no more than about 70 grams per day "
This amount – 70 g – corresponds to approximately one lamb chop, one pork sausage, half a beef burger or one and a half slices of bacon.
Dr. David Nunan, also a professor at Oxford, said: “A recommendation to reduce consumption will bring more people to the average at best.
& # 39; And if that also means a move from average to below average, it is unlikely for most that this will not lead to health damage.
& # 39; But again, that is if we believe the findings, which the authors of the current studies have little faith in.
& # 39; All of this says nothing about individual risk, because even if we believe that in the best case, 12 out of 1000 people who consume slightly less red or processed meat will be saved from poor health outcomes, no one can ever predict or you one of the those 12. & # 39;
The World Health Organization classifies red meat as probably carcinogenic and processed meat as carcinogenic, which means that it is certainly related to the cancer.
The NHS says that eating a lot of red meat & # 39; probably increases your risk of colon cancer & # 39 ;.
Cancer Research UK says that three chemicals in meat are linked to colon cancer because they damage cells in the gut.
Dr. Giota Mitrou, director of research at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: & # 39; It is important to remember that red and processed meat consumption is part of our overall diet and exercise and it is unlikely that specific foods are important individual Factors are in causing or protecting cancer.
& # 39; Instead, combine different dietary patterns and physical activity throughout life to make you more or less prone to cancer. & # 39;
Dr. Marco Springmann, an environmental and health expert at Oxford, added: & # 39; The recommendation that adults continue the current consumption of red and processed meat is based on a skewed reading and presentation of the scientific evidence.
& # 39; By providing evidence for a change in consumption that is less than half what is usual (for a change of less than half a serving per day compared to a change of one serving per day as is commonly used) ), it was perhaps inevitable that the authors would only report minor potential health benefits of reductions in red and processed meat consumption.
& # 39; Even with this crooked way of presenting the evidence, the assessments clearly point out the benefits of reducing the consumption of red and processed meat. & # 39;
The research was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
WHAT DO HEALTH CHARACTERS SAY ABOUT THE RESEARCH?
Lauren Wiggins, from Colon cancer UK, said: & # 39; This latest study shows that current government recommendations to limit eating red meat to three servings a week still hold.
& # 39; We know that eating red and processed meat can increase the risk of colon cancer. & # 39;
So it is important to reduce how much you have. You don't have to cut these foods out completely, just to choose red and processed meat as an incidental rather than every day.
& # 39; Almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year and it is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. By making simple changes to your lifestyle, such as removing red and processed meat, you can increase the chances of colon cancer.
& # 39; It is also important to try to maintain a healthy weight, use less alcohol, exercise regularly and stop smoking, all these things can make a real difference. & # 39;
Cancer Research UKEmma Shields said: & # 39; Processed meat increases the risk of colon cancer – there is a lot of evidence to prove this.
& # 39; This study came to the same conclusion, with the main difference that the researchers believe that eating less meat does not help much.
& # 39; But this is different from what many other researchers and experts say – that if people would eat less processed meat in the UK alone, this could prevent 5,400 cases of colon cancer.
& # 39; We don't recommend people to cut meat completely if they don't want to, but anyone who eats a lot and wants to reduce their risk of colon cancer may want to consider eating less. & # 39;
Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, added: & # 39; Studies like this make it confusing to know if you should grab your steak knife or leave it in the drawer.
& # 39; How much red and processed meat we should eat has been under discussion for decades, but our advice has not changed.
& # 39; Most of us could benefit from eating less meat and including more vegetable protein in our diet, such as lentils, nuts and seeds, as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
& # 39; These foods are the traditional Mediterranean diet, which is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. & # 39;
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