The WHO Report and Why Red and Processed Meat Increases the Risk of Mortality


There has been a lot of news of late about whether or not meat is good for you. This is mainly due to a controversial WHO report that linked some forms of meat consumption with cancer. In October, the WHO issued a report that placed processed meat into its Group 1 category, which means there is “sufficient evidence” that it could potentially cause cancer. It suggested that red meat “probably” caused cancer as well. The report was issued by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of WHO, which consisted of 22 experts who looked at 800 studies on cancer in humans.


What Should You Know about the Report?


For the purposes of the report, the WHO defined red meat as “all mammalian muscle meat, including, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.” Processed meat was defined as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes”


It should be noted that it is nowhere near the risk level of smoking and other known carcinogens. The rate of colon cancer is increased by a factor of about 1.1 or 1.2 for every serving of processed meat consumed per day. In comparison, smoking increases the likelihood of lung cancer 20-fold.


However, this is not the only study that has linked meat consumption with cancer. According to one Harvard study, where researchers tracked the food choices of 121,000 adults for 28 years, they found that those who consumed at least 3 oz. of red meat a day were 13% more likely to die from heart disease or cancer. If they had daily servings of bacon or other processed meats, their risk went up to 20%.


Researchers believe that there are several potential reasons for the increased risk. Red and processed meats have high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol. Preparation could be a factor as well. For example, cured meats and salt have been linked with an increased risk of stomach cancer. It’s for this reason why the Hope4Cancer┬« Institute in Tijuana focuses on nutrition in treatment and recovery. The nutrition principle of its Seven Key Cancer Treatment Principles includes a diet devoid mostly of meat that instead focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables along with alkalinized water.


For the purposes of the WHO report, the results are significant. Colorectal cancer was the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States, so even a small reduction in red and processed meats could potentially improve cancer mortality rates and healthcare costs.