Experts Cast Doubt on the Meat and Cancer HypothesisWednesday, August 6, 2008
"All too often, claims that meat is linked to
cancer are made as if they are proven
fact. But today's panel presented
compelling evidence the 'conventional wisdom'
is not always current or accurate," said AMI
David Klurfeld, Ph.D., national program leader
in human nutrition at the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research
Service, provided an extensive critique of the
2007 World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Report,
released in the
"While few people likely will tackle the 2,334-page literature review after reading a 500-page summary of findings, those who do will find some critical information that was disregarded and contradicted in the report's summary," Klurfeld said. He expressed frustration that the group's press release reflected so poorly what was actually in the report and literature review.
In a dramatic presentation about the state of the science on sodium nitrite safety and positive health benefits, Nathan Bryan, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Houston Institute of Molecular Medicine, told attendees that many members of the media, the public and the scientific community have outdated notions about sodium nitrite's safety.
"The public perception is that nitrite and
nitrate are carcinogens but they are not,"
He also detailed the many cardiovascular and
other health benefits that are now being
associated with nitrite. According to
In addition, he said that preliminary research at his university is showing that when nitrite has been applied directly to tumor cell lines, it did not promote tumor growth. And when ascorbate (Vitamin C) is added along with the nitrite, cell growth is inhibited (ascorbate is routinely added along with nitrite in cured meats).
Equally important is the very reason that nitrite is added to cured meats: food safety. Nitrite prevents growth of Clostridium botulinum, which causes the disease botulism. More recently, researchers have also documented that nitrite inhibits the growth of Listeria monocytogenes if it is present, and lower levels mean lower risk to people if it were consumed.
James Coughlin, Ph.D., an independent, expert food toxicologist with more than 30 years of experience with nitrite, also discussed standards of scientific evidence that should be carefully employed when assessing the results of epidemiology and toxicology studies of meats and nitrite. Arthur Miller, Ph.D., senior managing scientist at Exponent, detailed the state of the science on heterocyclic and polyaromatic amine formation during grilling.
"If someone today said the world was flat, we'd laugh because that's such an uninformed and disproved hypothesis," Huffman said. "We need to put some of our notions about meat and cancer, nitrite risks and other issues into that same mythological category. The public has been saturated for so long with these claims that they've been incorporated into our belief systems, but just as the world isn’t flat, meat cured with sodium nitrite is both safe and nutritious.”
Huffman underscored that fresh and processed meats offer important nutrition benefits including protein, essential vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids. Eating meat also contributes a feeling of satiety, and new research shows that low-carbohydrate/high protein diets are more effective in weight control than simply reducing calories.
To view these presentations, go to: http://www.foodprotection.org/.
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