Historical Events

Soft evidence pervades the other major health problem assumed to be related to red meat: cancer.

The same kind of soft evidence pervades the other major health problem assumed to be related to red meat: cancer. According to a 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, a 500-page document that is the most authoritative review of diet and cancer conducted to date, red meat causes colorectal cancer. Yet, again, the reported difference between those who ate the most red meat and those who ate the least was minuscule—only 1.29 (this number, called a “relative risk,” was even lower for processed meat, only 1.09). This is far from the “convincing evidence” that the 2007 report labeled it, since the National Cancer Institute itself recommends interpreting any relative risk below 2 “with caution.” Experts lambasted the report’s red meat findings for this and other reasons. As one critic pointed out, “If anything, the available evidence could only support a link with so-called HCA carcinogens, generated when red meat is cooked or fried.”VIII And as we’ll see later, this apparent carcinogenic effect could very well have less to do with the meat itself and more to do with the oil in which it is fried.

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