Should African Americans continue to eat red meat?

By Jimmie Davis, Jr.

The Fourth of July has approached us and most Americans are going to break out the grill and hot dogs, hamburgers and those juicy T-bone steaks will be on the menu – but you might want to think twice before you eat any type of red meat, because the American Institute for Cancer Research [AICR] and the World Cancer Research Fund has linked them to colorectal cancer.

Not only should hot dogs be excluded from your diet, but any type of processed meat also, because it increases the chances of colorectal cancer as well.

One 50-gram serving of processed meat – about the amount in one hot dog a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average by 21 percent according to a report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the AICR.

“Based on research from cancer studies there’s no safe amount of processed meat you can consume,” said Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [PCRM] during a telephone interview. “Any processed meats such as hot dogs, sausage, bacon, ham and deli meats are really dangerous. People shouldn’t consume them so readily.”

Processed meat refers to meats preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives.

When these meats are preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives, cancer-causing substances [carcinogens] can be formed.

It’s these deadly substances that attack cells in the body, which leads to the development of cancer.

Furthermore, red meat contains substances that are linked to colon cancer.

For example, heme iron, the compound that gives red meat its color, has been shown to damage the lining of the colon.

Levin says that hot dogs are so dangerous that they should come with a warning label informing consumers of the health risk.

“How else are you going to warn people to protect themselves from colorectal cancer by eating processed meats,” Levin said.

“Cigarettes are linked to cancer and they come with a warning label and so should hot dogs.”

Albert Fillmore, 55, of Pompano Beach says every time you turn around some agency is saying you can’t eat this or that.

He has a sneaky suspicion that the people saying you can’t eat hot dogs are vegetarians, because they are always condemning meat.

“I suspect these people are vegetarians,” said Fillmore. “It’s just the way they express themselves about different things concerning people who eat meat.”

Well Fillmore is partially correct, because PCRM is a Washington, D.C. group that promotes preventive medicine and a vegan diet – but they are not the ones who conducted the research.

The report was furnished by the World Cancer Research Fund and the AICR.

Levin says PCRM didn’t carry out any tests and that they are just conveying the information to the public.

“I do support a plant-based diet, which helps fight against all types of cancer,” she said. “You can really protect your health by having a plant-based diet and protect yourself against a lot of diseases and not just colorectal cancer.

The report is also in favor of a diet based on low-energy-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits and beans.

A diet based on plant foods also reduces risk directly by supplying plant compounds the body needs to prevent or repair cell damage.

PCRM may endorse a vegetarian diet, but An Pan, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston consumes red meat and recently conducted a separate clinical study that discovered eating red meat increases the risk of premature death.

The report entitled “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality” was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and concluded that red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.

During the timeframe of the study 23,926 participants died as a result of cardiovascular disease and cancer, which stemmed from consuming red meat.

The Harvard research team estimated that 9.3 percent of deaths in men and 7.6 percent in women could have been prevented if they had abstained from eating red meat.

“The bottom line is there’s no amount of red meat that’s good for you,” said Pan. “If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products.”

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