Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Health

Not bacon! Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats cause cancer, health group declares

A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too.

The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States.

The WHO conclusions are based on the work of a 22-member panel of international experts that reviewed decades of research on the link between red meat, processed meats, and cancer. The panel reviewed animal experiments, studies of human diet and health, and cell mechanisms that could lead from red meat to cancer.

But the panel's decision was not unanimous, and by raising lethal concerns about a food that anchors countless American meals, it will be controversial. The $95 billion U.S. beef industry has been preparing for months to mount a response and some scientists, including some unaffiliated with the meat industry, have questioned whether the evidence is substantial enough to draw the kinds of strong conclusions that the WHO panel did.

"We simply don't think the evidence support any causal link between any red meat and any type of cancer," said Shalene McNeill, executive director of human nutrition at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The research into a possible link between eating red meat and cancer — colorectal cancer is a longstanding area of concern — has been the subject of scientific debate for decades. But by concluding that processed meats cause cancer, and that red meats "probably" cause cancer, the WHO findings go well beyond the tentative associations that other groups have reported.

CHEESE, TOO? Study finds cheese is as addictive as drugs

The American Cancer Society, for example, notes that many studies have found "a link" between eating red meat and heightened risks of colorectal cancer. But it stops short of telling people that the meats cause cancer. Some diets that have lots of vegetables and fruits and lesser amounts of red and processed meats have been associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society tells the public, but "it's not exactly clear" which factors of that diet are important.

Likewise, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's advice compendium, encourage the consumption of protein foods such as lean meats as part of a healthy diet. Regarding processed meats, however, the Dietary Guidelines do offer a tentative warning: "moderate evidence suggests an association between the increased intake of processed meats (e.g., franks, sausage, and bacon) and increased risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease," the guidelines say. The Dietary Guidelines stop well short of saying processed meats cause cancer, however.

In recent years, meat consumption has been the target of multifaceted social criticism, with debates erupting not just over its role on human health, but the impact of feedlots on the environment and on animal welfare. The public debate over the WHO's findings will likely play out in political lobbying, and in marketing messages for consumers.

But at its core, the dispute over meat and cancer revolves around science, and in particular the difficulty that arises whenever scientists try to link any food to a chronic disease.

Experiments to test whether a food causes cancer pose a massive logistical challenge - they require controlling the diets of thousands of test subjects over a course of many years. For example, one group would be assigned to eat lots of meat, and another less, or none. But for a variety of reasons involving cost and finding test subjects, such experiments are rarely done, and scientists instead often use other less direct methods, known as epidemiological or observational studies, to draw their conclusions.

"I understand that people may be skeptical about this report on meat because the experimental data is not terribly strong," said Paolo Boffetta, a professor of Tisch Cancer Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who has served on similar WHO panels. "But in this case the epidemiological evidence is very strong."

Other scientists, however, have criticized the epidemiological studies for too often reaching "false positives," that is, concluding that something causes cancer when it doesn't.

"Is everything we eat associated with cancer?" a much noted 2012 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition asked.

That paper reviewed the academic studies conducted on common cookbook ingredients. Of the 50 ingredients considered, 40 had been studied for their impact on cancer. Individually, most of those studies found that consumption of the food was correlated with cancer. When the research on any given ingredient was considered collectively, however, those effects typically shrank or disappeared.

"Many single studies highlight implausibly large effects, even though evidence is weak," the authors concluded.

While epidemioloical studies were critical in proving the dangers of cigarettes, the magnitude of the reported risks of meat is much smaller, and it is hard for scientists to rule out statistical confounding as the cause of the apparent danger.

"It might be a good idea not to be an excessive consumer of meat," said Jonathan Schoenfeld, the co-author of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article and an assistant professor in radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School "But the effects of eating meat may be minimal, if anything."

Moreover, critics of the decision noted that two actual experiments that tested diets with reduced meat consumption, the Polyp Prevention Trial and the Women's Health Initiative, found that subjects who lessened their meat intake did not appear to benefit by a lower cancer risk. It is possible, however, that the reductions in red meat were too small to have an effect.

Comments
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym — HIIT — sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18
Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

By KATIE WORKMANOne of the amazing things about Italian food is that the best dishes are often so completely, refreshingly simple. Like, four-ingredient simple. (We don’t count olive oil and salt. Or water. Or air.) I love broccoli. I can roast brocc...
Published: 06/08/18