Meat lovers beware: a new study revealed today that consuming one steak a week drastically raises the risk of bowel cancer by 42%.
The study, the largest of its kind, concluded that consuming red and processed meat puts individuals at risk for cancer, according to Daily Mail. These findings were released shortly after the World Health Organization classified meat as a group 1 carcinogen, which put it alongside alcohol, tobacco and arsenic.
Oxford University epidemiology professor Tim Key and Dr. Kathryn Bradbury conducted the research by looking at the records of half a million British men and women between the ages of 40 to 69. The participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits and consumption of meat for a typical week over a four-year period from 2006 to 2010.
The results showed 1,503 of surveyors had developed bowel cancer during that time. Adults who consumed red or processed meat four times a week were 42% more likely to develop cancer.
While a typical portion size for red and processed meat is about 70 grams, the portion sizes of common foods we eat are significantly bigger. A quarter pound burger is a whopping 200 grams, and a 10-ounce steak is pushing it at 284 grams.
The typical 70 grams portion size of meat is equivalent to either two slices of ham, two servings of bacon or one sausage. Eating two portions a week increases the chances of contracting bowel cancer disease by a fifth, according to the Oxford research.
Experts believe chemicals in red meat are harmful to DNA cells in the digestive system, which lead to tumor growth. In addition, processed meat put individuals at a higher risk because of its high fat and salt content and cancer-related additives.
Bowel cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the UK, second only to lung cancer. Leading researcher Key will present the findings at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Liverpool this coming week. He advised:
“Eating things other than meat seems to be the sensible approach. So eating plant-based proteins such as beans, chicken or fish.”
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of bowel cancer charity Beating Bowel Cancer, warned:
“The evidence suggests there is a strong link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, so we recommend eating both in moderation.”