Once again the media outlets have been "rocked" by news on nutrition: the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that processed meat and red meat consumption are associated with cancer. In a press release dated October 26, 2015, the WHO stated that a group of 22 experts from ten countries reviewed the scientific literature and classified processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans" due to sufficient evidence that processed meats — like hot dogs, bacon, and salami — cause colorectal cancer. Red meat was classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans" and associated with pancreatic and prostate cancer as well as colorectal cancer.
The response to the WHO report from the plant-based community has been mixed, presumably because this information is not even slightly surprising to anyone who follows nutritional research. Many plant-based nutrition experts made no mention of the report on their blogs or Facebook pages in the immediate wake of the news. Others, like Forks Over Knives, PlantPure Nation, and Jeff Novick, MS, RD, simply reported the clear facts of the WHO press release without editorializing on the content. After all, the findings of the report speak for themselves.
Yet others in the community couldn't pass up the opportunity to reinforce the message that eating processed meats can kill us. Dr. Michael Greger noted on Facebook that "Processed meat is implicated in the deaths of more than 800,000 people annually overall." Dr. John McDougall's Facebook post was titled "The Dangers of Processed Meats - It's More Than Just Cancer" which was followed by a chart documenting risks of stroke, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and early death, as well as cancer of the bladder, prostate, and colon. Dr. Neal Barnard and PCRM put out a call for action: "Schools and hospitals are required to protect students and patients from cancer-causing asbestos. If WHO says processed meats are just as dangerous, it’s time to protect them from hot dogs and pepperoni, too." PCRM has invited the public to join their campaign at www.DropTheDog.org. The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Research remarked that the meat industries are "a bit upset" over the WHO report, but then asked, "Isn't it about time that everyone gets 'a bit upset' with the meat industries for feeding #cancer?" And after stating that the average American eats about 18 pounds of bacon a year, VegSource pulled no punches: "Eating bacon or smoking cigarettes are choices people can make, but anyone giving their kids smokes or BLTs should probably receive parental education classes. Why have kids if you're not going to take care of them?" Julieanna Hever, the Plant-Based Dietician, simply gave this invitation: "Instead of eating meat and putting yourself at an increased risk for the world's biggest causes of death and disability, consider eating a health-promoting diet made of legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds."
Reviewing the reactions of my colleagues to the WHO report, I applaud each one. The responses are varied because they reflect the needs of the varied sets of people we attempt to reach with our united message of hope and health through a whole-food plant-based diet. All of us agree; there is no need to eat meat. Habit, convenience, or family food traditions are not excuses to continue a legacy of disease and death for ourselves or our children. The earth is full of health-promoting foods, and there are plenty of interesting ways to prepare them. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to eat for life and vitality. While there are many options for support, I invite you to join the no-added-oil, whole-food plant-based community at DrCarney.com/club and discover the delicious freedom of eating "From Sun to Plant to Plate."
What do you think of the WHO report on red meat and processed meat? Please leave your comments below.
For additional information, click on the following links:
(16) WHO Report