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on April 25, 2016

Research shows processed meats safe, nutritious

Attempts by the World Cancer Research Fund to sound warnings about processed meats are misguided

Processed meats remain a safe and nutritious part of a balanced diet, and attempts by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) to sound warnings about processed meats in a new report are misguided because they rely on a few weak studies when many other studies have affirmed their safety.

A close look at the new WCRF report reveals that the increased risk of stomach cancer they try to attach to processed meats are consumed people who have had H. pylori infections that commonly cause ulcers. A 2012 paper by Bryan et. al. also identified H. pylori as a potential causative agent that warranted further study—not processed meats or the nitrite sometimes contained within. The National Cancer Institute also has documented evidence of a relationship between H. pylori and stomach cancer.

In addition, the risk ratios calculated by the three studies on which the latest finding is based on very small risk increases that do not come close to meeting the levels required by the widely accepted Bradford Hill Criteria to establish a causal relationship.

Notably, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and World Health Organization have each recently affirmed that red and processed meats can be part of a balanced diet. Data considered by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee showed that followers of a Mediterranean diet actually consume twice as many processed meats as those who follow the USDA pattern.

“Once again, we see an attempt to oversimply the complex issues surrounding cancer causes,” said North American Meat Institute Vice President of Scientific Affairs Betsy Booren, Ph.D. “While WCRF’s press release is headline grabbing in fingering processed meats, a close read of the study and the full body of literature makes clear that H. pylori appears to be of far greater concern than weak, theoretical risks associated with processed meats. Consumers can continue to enjoy processed meats as part of their healthy, balanced diet.”

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