World Meat Congress 2016

Reducing meat consumption poses ‘significant’ health risk

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Stefano Natella, Credit Suisse, spoke about meat consumption and cancer at WMC 2016
Stefano Natella, Credit Suisse, spoke about meat consumption and cancer at WMC 2016

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Calls to cut meat consumption to reduce the risk of developing cancer raise serious health concerns and consumers heeding such advice could end up suffering from nutritional deficiencies. 

A hard-hitting World Health Organisation report on processed meat​ linked consumption of meat – especially bacon and sausages - to cancer back in October 2015. But a spokesperson from the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), speaking at the World Meat Congress (WMC) 2016, warned not eating enough meat poses a number of health risks too.

Janet Riley, NAMI’s vice president of public affairs, warned people influenced by calls to eliminate meat from their diet could develop a deficiency of the vitamin B-12. That is a key nutrient that plays a vital role in keeping the brain working properly.

‘Public health issue’

Eliminating meat is a public heath issue because experts note meat is packed full of vital nutrients and eliminating this from the consumer’s diet could cause serious health concerns,​” she stressed.

Riley bemoaned that research that does not find a correlation between meat consumption and disease “does not get the attention it deserves​”. She added the “steady drip​” of negative meat-based news stories​ around the world is encouraging consumers to “think twice about eating meat​”.

Riley was strongly critical of the WHO’s report​ and claimed it does not have the right to dictate the diet of consumers. The 2015 study claimed people who eat a 50g portion of processed meat per day increase their risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

Colorectal cancer

Stefano Natella, head of global market research at Credit Suisse told WMC 2016​ attendees a wide study of colorectal cancer patients does not show meat is a common denominator.

Research conducted by Natella suggests roughly 4% of the global population suffer from colorectal cancer, with 4.5% of meat-eaters said to suffer from the disease. However, vegetarians who consume a lot of fibre were more likely to suffer from colorectal cancer than people who eat meat, he claimed.

Natella added the “the meat industry is not in the picture enough with regards to promoting the positive story of meat​”. Riley echoed this, stating it felt like “there is a war being waged on meat consumption​”.

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