According to the 2010 Continuous Update Project (CUP), a joint endeavor by the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund to report on the most current cancer research, overdoing the consumption of red meat and processed meat greatly increases the risk of colorectal cancer. A more recent 2013 study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), found that middle-aged adults consuming high levels of processed meat (more than 5 ¾ ounces daily) over 12 years had more than a 70% increase in cardiovascular death than those eating about ½ ounce per day. Also, cancer deaths were 43% higher among those consuming the most processed meat.
As a result of these findings, it is recommended that red meat – beef, lamb or pork – be limited to no more than 18 ounces a week. Processed meats – hot dogs, bacon, sausage and lunch/deli meats – should be avoided altogether. Processed meats have lots of sodium and usually nitrates as preservatives. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure and possibly leach calcium from the bones. Nitrates can form carcinogens in the body, increasing the risk of some types of cancer.
Examples of healthy protein alternatives are poultry without the skin, fish, soy products, low-fat/fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and kefir), dried beans and peas, nuts/nut butters (peanut, almond, hazelnut, etc.). To reduce fat and calories, choose cooking methods such as roasting, broiling and baking, rather than frying.
Rohrmann S, Overvad K, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, et al. Meat consumption and mortality. Results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Med 2013.
WCRF/AICR’s Second Expert Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.