04 Nov Paranoid about sugar and meat?
In the last couple of weeks, some aspect of your current lifestyle has gone through yet another round of new findings to spare you from disease. Don’t eat sugar. Processed meat causes cancer. Red meat could possibly cause cancer. Seriously?!? Well, yes. What do these findings mean and what should you do about it?
Let’s start with the conclusion: eat a balanced diet and drink in moderation; exercise; and get regular checkups. That has been good advice for decades and will continue to be so. HOWEVER, the more we learn, the more we may want to modify our behavior if we think it will make us feel better, live longer and prevent disease. That’s what the recent news was all about.
American consumers have an enormous sweet tooth courtesy of the prepared foods we eat and drink. The consumption of sugars in the American diet increased by 30% between 1977 and 2009. Currently, that’s about 130 lbs of sugar per person per year or the same as drinking 1,241 cans of 12 oz. sodas. Recently, a study was released documenting the adverse impact sugars have on our health. The study’s conclusion: sugar is toxic. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines toxic as containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation. Those are pretty strong words.
The study was conducted by Dr. Robert Lustig, from the department of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. His team used a variety of controls with a test group of obese children to ensure the same number of calories were being consumed daily but substituted starch for foods with high sugar content. The outcomes were measurable and informative for Dr. Lustig. He declared that the reduction of sugar in the diet of some subjects reduced factors that lead to diabetes; fasting blood sugar levels dropped by 53% and less fat was present in the liver – both positive indicators for improving health. As with many studies, however, detractors found the research questionable. However, the most prominent criticism was featured on the Corn Refiners Association web site entitled Sweetener Studies.
Here we go again. Who do you believe?
The World Health Organization (WHO) made headlines recently by declaring processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs are human carcinogens similar to tobacco and asbestos. With consumers rattled by the news, the WHO clarified that the report did not recommend abstention but rather a reduction in the amount of processed meats in people’s diets. The study was conducted by the International Agency of Cancer Research (IACR). The risk from these products, it appears, is developing colorectal cancer.
The Global Burden of Disease Project estimates that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets considered high in processed meats. It also said that as many as 50,000 deaths can be linked to consuming red meat.
How much difference does a meat-free diet make in avoiding bowel cancers? A United Kingdom study stated that eating minimal amounts of processed meats reduces the colorectal cancer risk by 15 percent compared to those who are large consumers of processed meat.
Steve Malloy, author of junkscience.com, disputes such findings charging that organizations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research are making such claims to raise charitable donations.
The issue of screening for cancers has created confusion and anxiety with both women (mammograms) and men (prostate cancer). One reason cited for later and fewer screenings often includes reducing people’s anxiety about cancer. If we don’t worry about it, then maybe it’s not there? Bad choice. The best solution is to understand your family history and factors that may contribute to disease and cancer and then make an informed decision. If you want to feel better, try changing your diet.
Whether it’s your medical history or what you eat, getting educated will help you make better decisions about your health.