It has been known for some time that excessive consumption of meat can increase the risk of suffering from cancer. The WCRF (World Cancer Research Fund) recommended reduced consumption levels of red and processed meat in 2007. This recommendation was taken into consideration in the preparation of the Austrian food recommendations - the so-called "Austrian Food Pyramid". According to the recommendation, a maximum of three portions of lean meat or low-fat cold meats and sausages (1 portion equals ca. the palm of the hand or 300 – 450 g) should be consumed per week. Red meat and cold meats and sausages should appear on the menu rather sparingly.
However, the average intake of cold meats, sausages and meat is clearly above the recommendations, according to the Austrian Food Report. This is in stark contrast to the low consumption of foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole wheat products, fish and pulses (Austrian Food Report 2012).
International Agency for Research on Cancer Confirms Connection
A recently published reassessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) affirms the link between cold meat products and meat (sausages, ham and other processed meat) and colon cancer, following the evaluation of 800 studies. The connection between red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, horse) and colon cancer is believed to be likely. However, the data is still limited, making further research necessary.
The preparation of meat and cold meat products is one of the reasons believed to be responsible for the development of carcinogenic or allegedly carcinogenic substances. Harmful substances could form during grilling, roasting, smoking, drying or curing.
The IARC working group concludes that colon cancer risk increases by 18 % for every 50 grams of processed meat that is consumed daily. In a projection based on the annual number of new colon cancer cases (Statistik Austria 2012: 3.6 % in men, 2 % in women) this would mean the following: in Austria, 36 from 1,000 men suffer from colon cancer per year before they turn 75, from a statistical point of view. Would these 1,000 males eat an additional 50 grams of processed meat every day, the number of those affected by colon cancer would rise to 42. For women, this would mean that 24 instead of 20 women would be diagnosed with colon cancer.
It must be noted that numerous different aspects play an important role in the development of many food-related diseases. Environmental aspects, but also heredity and health-related behaviour (smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity etc.) are equally important, in addition to malnutrition.
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