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Cutting Down On Red Meat Can Reduce Risk Of Colon Cancer. Here's How

Women eating lesser quantity of red meat reported lower rates of colon cancer, reveals a study.

Cutting Down On Red Meat Can Reduce Risk Of Colon Cancer. Here

Red meat can increase risks of colon cancer in women

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Red meat can increase risks of colon cancer in women: study
  2. Eating red meat regularly can be harmful for health
  3. Red meat is rich in protein and should be consumed in limited quantities

Cutting down on red meat can reduce risk of colon cancer in women, a new study in the United Kingdom has revealed. More evidence has been found by researchers which suggest that women eating lesser quantity of red meat reported lower rates of colon cancer. The research has been carried out by researchers at University of Leeds and University of Basque Country in Spain. The team studied the effect of poultry, red meat, fish or vegetarian diets on the risk of colon or rectal cancer.

red meat
Photo Credit: iStock



More than 32,000 women aged from 32 to 69 were examined as part of the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study. These women's diets were assessed for 4 common eating patterns.


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In the study, vegetarians were defined as people who consumed red meat poultry or fish less than 1 time in a week. Fish eaters were defined as those who ate fish once a week or more, but not poultry or red meat. Poultry eaters were defined as people who consumed poultry once a week or more, ate fish but not red meat. Red meat eaters were the ones who consumed red meat once a week or more, and those who may or may not consume poultry and fish. Foods such as pork, beef, lamb and processed meat were included as part of red meat.

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While researchers were trying to find the link between each kind of diet and cancer in specific colon substitutes, researchers found that regular red meat eating women had higher rates of distal colon cancer, which is the cancer found in the last section of colon, as compared to women who consumed a diet free of red meat.

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There have been researches done previously as well, which link cancer risk with red and processed meats. According to International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report in 2015, processed meat increases risks of colon, rectum, pancreas and prostate cancer. This report was releases after analyzing 800 studies from across the world. In the UK, 1 in 5 bowel cancers have been estimated to be linked with red and processed meats.

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However, red meat is a good source of protein and consuming it in limited amounts can be considered good for your health. Red meat such as pork, lamb and venison are all rich sources of iron and help in preventing conditions like anaemia. Lean meat such as chicken and turkey are also healthy sources of protein. Eating a diet rich in protein helps in feeling for longer and reduces hunger pangs.

Delhi-based nutritionist Pooja Malhotra says, "Red meats are a rich source of many nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, selenium and iron. The iron in meat is heme iron which has a higher absorption rate than non-heme iron."

red meat

Red meat should be consumed in limited quantities
Photo Credit: iStock


She agrees that the effect of red meat on health has been greatly debated. "Many studies point to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Red meats are usually high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Traditionally, they have been thought to increase LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. This is why lean meats are preferred. But in recent years, studies have suggested that dietary cholesterol has no bearing on heart disease, and the liver produces far more cholesterol than what a person derives from diet," she says.

Pooja lays emphasis on the fact that cooking method is important when it comes to red meat. "Exposing meats to very high temperatures can produce cancerous substances. Processed meat is not safe as it may undergo smoking and curing. Processed meat has chemicals like nitrates, preservatives etc," she explains.

Pooja adds that organically grown, grass-fed animals are better than factory-grown, grain-fed and those injected with growth hormones and antibiotics. 

Also read: 8 Ways You Can Cut Your Risk Of Colon Cancer

The protein in red meat is good for build-up of bones and muscles. It is rich source of Vitamin B12 which is helpful in keeping a healthy DNA and red blood cells. Red meat is also rich in zinc - a mineral which ensures a healthy immune system.

Also read: Am I at a risk of breast cancer?

(Pooja Malhotra is a Delhi-based nutritionist)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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