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Studies: Some Meats Increase Cancer Risk, Vegetables Curb Heart Attacks

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A report about the dangers of eating too much processed meat and too much red meat has created a bit of an uproar.

On Monday, researchers with the World Health Organization announced that processed meats increase the risk of colon, stomach and other cancers.

I talked with a scientist from Minnesota who worked on the report.

He told me what this report really does is reinforce what doctors around the world have been saying for decades: that there is a link between cancer and certain foods.

The processed meats we're talking about in the report are bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs, and cold cuts.

Twenty-two scientists from around the globe evaluated 800 studies that examine meat and cancer.

The international conclusion is that processed meats are in the same danger category as cigarettes and asbestos.

"Frequent consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer. The risk is small but it is there, and with increased consumption, generally that risk goes up," said Dr. Rob Turesky, of the University of Minnesota.

He is one of the scientists from the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

"If there is a take home message, it is not to stop eating, consuming meat products, but to diversity your diet," he said. "Eat these types of meats in moderation, but make sure you are eating vegetables, fruits, other protein sources, poultry and fish as well."

We wanted some advice on what to look for on meat labels in the grocery store so we visited a registered dietitian at Woodwinds Hospital's Ways to Wellness Center in Woodbury.

"The least number of ingredients possible. No nitrates, lower sodium," said dietitian Rachel Larson. "The most natural and least tampered with is always going to be your best choice."

Turesky offered this last piece of advice.

"I'd like to emphasize the risk is low compared to cigarette smoke and alcohol consumption. I don't want the public to be...creating hysteria about this. You just have to use common sense and have a balanced diet," Turesky said.

As for red meat, the report says that grilling, pan-frying and high temperature methods of cooking it, produce the highest amount of chemicals suspected of causing cancer.

Some of the strongest reaction to this report has come from the meat industry.

Leaders are arguing that cancer isn't caused by a specific food, but involves lifestyle and environmental factors.
Read more about the study here.

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