Cutting consumption of red meat, reducing salt intake and eating more fruit and veg can all help thwart cancer, according to a study into prevention of the disease.
The report, published this morning (1 November), was carried out by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), a UK-based charitable research body.
Among ten recommendations on how diet and lifestyle changes could prevent cancer, the WCRF said consumers should avoid “processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages”. The fund said eating red meat should be limited to 500g a week.
Other recommendations from the six-year study included the well-known advice of limiting salt intake and eating fruit and vegetables five times a day.
“To the extent that environmental factors such as food, nutrition, and physical activity influence risk of cancer, it is a preventable disease,” the report said.
Unsurprisingly, the report’s recommendation on meat provoked a fierce response from industry. The American Meat Institute criticised the “alarmist messages” in the report and said the findings should be treated with “scepticism”.
“WCRF’s conclusions are extreme, unfounded and out of step with dietary guidelines,” said AMI foundation vice president of scientific affairs Randy Huffman.
“Headlines associated with this report may give consumers another case of nutrition whiplash. No health groups should be dispensing clear-cut recommendations on specific foods when studies continue to contradict each other time after time.”
Meanwhile, the Soil Association, the monitoring body for organic standards in the UK, attacked the report for “drawing no distinction” between organic and intensively-produced meat.
Soil Association policy adviser Richard Young said: “We support the World Cancer Research Fund’s message that all meat should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
“But, these scientists are throwing out the baby with the bathwater by failing to recognise the major global increases taking place in organic farming and condemning all red and processed meat equally. There is compelling evidence that red meat from organic and some other grass-fed animals is positively beneficial in protecting against the risk of cancer.”