To eat or not to eat red meats . . .

To eat or not to eat red meats . . .

A few days ago the World Health Organization, based on an analysis carried out by its affiliate, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), declared that the consumption of processed meats causes cancer and that meats Red may increase the risk of cancer.

This statement is made based on a review of 700 scientific works carried out by 22 experts in 10 countries, in which it is indicated that there is sufficient evidence to include processed meats in the group of “Carcinogens for the Human Being”, but highlights that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that red meat (eg beef, veal, lamb, horse or goat) is cancer causing, and as such this organism places red meat within the classification “Probably Carcinogenic to humans ” However, IARC Director Christopher Wild is cautious in admitting that red meat has very important nutritional value.


In view of the confusion these claims have caused in our patients, many have asked if they are doing right or wrong, consuming red meat three or more times a week. Regarding this doubt, it is important to emphasize that the human being has been a scavenger carnivore for 2 million years ago, and it was thanks to his ability to consume meat that he managed to improve his brain development and gain dominance in all ecological niches.

In order to keep our brain active, it is necessary to consume a diet with high food quality, that is, it is easily digestible and provides the greatest amount of nutrients. This is only possible through the consumption of meat, such that, with just grams of meat, we can supply our protein, calorie, vitamin and mineral requirements, while if we were herbivores we would need kilos of food to equal the meat. Of course, to achieve this, we developed various adaptation systems for meat consumption, such as: neoglycogenesis, which explains the manufacture of glucose from amino acids, the low presence of vitamin B12 and vitamin A, the difficult manufacture of which is easily supplied by consuming meats, taurine, which is an amino acid very necessary for cellular nutrition and which is also obtained by ingesting meat products, like polyunsaturated fatty acids, leaving iron as the most important point, for this mineral there are specific receptors within our intestines that allow us to absorb it only from our daily diet.

While most products of animal origin, we can provide acids, amino vitamins and minerals, only red meat can give iron intake that is so necessary for growth, cell survival and repair. The increased availability of iron is found in red meat, as the molecular size is much more apt to be absorbed by our intestine, while vegetables and certain grains, the iron content is many times greater than in red meat but its bioavailability is lower, given that the molecules surrounding it are very complex, and as such unrecognizable to our intestinal receptors. On the other hand here’s an interesting fact, cell division requires an adequate source of iron, so that this is carried out with perfection required. If the iron source of a person is suitable, its cells divide and repair optimally, but when iron sources are scarce, the cells may proceed with a partial repair which may deviate and lead to cancer.

Among the recommendations to prevent the progression of a tumor are to completely avoid the consumption of red meat, given that since iron is very necessary for cell division, a cancer cell that is in full development tends to assimilate iron from the diet very greedily and therefore grows. However, by asking the patient not to consume red meat, we also prevent his defense systems, which are also dependent on iron, from eliminating this tumor, and it inevitably grows. The adequate consumption of iron depends not only on the appearance or not of a tumor, but since it is an essential mineral in cell development, it is required in adequate quantity for the brain and body growth of every individual.

As you can see, opting for a diet free of red meat leads to a serious nutritional deficit, which will cause major problems in a person’s health. On the other hand, with regard to processed meats, it has been known for many years that nitrosamine compounds from artificial nitrates and nitrites present in preservatives are cancer-causing.

Nitrosamines are formed when nitrites and amines react with each other in an acidic medium and when these two compounds are subjected to high temperatures, that is, when the preservatives of the sausages that contain nitrites bind to the proteins of the sausage, these to Coming into contact with stomach acid, they cause a chemical reaction that releases a free radical and water.

A wide variety of cancers, caused by nitrosamines, have been found in animals, but in humans, nitrosamines have so far been linked only to gastric cancer.

Knowing then the damage caused by nitrosamines, it is also important to emphasize that any type of health damage is also linked to the dose of nitrosamines consumed in the diet, and as such, detractors of the WHO recommendations have reiterated that in countries where the consumption of processed meats is high, (eg 8 ounces daily) do not have a higher incidence of cancer than the world population.

As a conclusion then, although it is essential to maintain a minimum consumption of 4 ounces of beef three times a week, in order to maintain a proper and optimal cell division, processed meats, as they contain artificial nitrous products, should be consumed in moderation.

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