Red meats may or may not be the death of you, but there’s no need to whip yourselves into a frenzy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published findings in October suggesting a link between the consumption of certain types of meat and cancer.
Processed meats like hot dogs, sausages and bacon (all served on campus in the UC), were listed as “carcinogenic to humans.” Tobacco smoke is under the same list. Red meats, like steak, are listed as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
By “probably carcinogenic,” WHO means “based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer.”
The limited evidence means even though a correlation has been observed, other explanations for the link may exist.
Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer in the United States is about 1 in 20, or 5 percent, according to the cancer society. By the WHO’s calculations having a cold-cut sandwich every day would only raise that to around 6 percent, the Seattle Times reports.
PLU’s Dining & Culinary Sous Chefs, Chuk Blessum and Anthony McGinnis said this isn’t a cause for alarm here on campus.
“The risks, though real, compared to what we already knew about red meat (the risk of heart disease and diabetes), don’t make it seem any riskier than it already is,” McGinnis said.
“It should be consumed in moderation, just like all things,” Blessum added.
WHO had no specific dietary suggestions, saying in a Q&A on it’s website that it “evaluates the evidence on the causes of cancer but does not make health recommendations.” The main health concerns for the consumption of red and processed meats are still sodium and fat intake, risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Pan-frying and grilling were listed as the most harmful way to prepare the meats, since the high-temperature and flames makes the meat more carcinogenic.
On-campus, the Dining and Culinary team has already begun to take steps to reduce the risks that come with eating.
“Over the years, we’ve taken a lot of measures to reduce the bulk amount of food that is consumed by eliminating trays at All You Care To Eat meals and limiting the portion size of the protein,” McGinnis said. “The only cooking practice we use [that makes the meat more carcinogenic] is grilling, so we try to limit the ways we create those carcinogens.”
The Dining & Culinary Services team also offers allergy & special diet support, healthy eating seminars and one-on-one nutrition counseling. In addition, vegan and vegetarian options are offered at every meal.
The Dining & Culinary Services team wants to emphasize how important receiving feedback is for them. Using the comment cards and interacting on social media is a great way to leave suggestions and voice concerns about your dining experience.
You probably won’t have to change your diet to avoid the risks of colorectal cancer, but if you do, know that the Dining & Culinary Services team is here to help.