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January 8, 2015 | 2 minute read

Less Red and Processed Meat? New Guidelines May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

16939621_sThis year, for the first time, the US Dietary Guidelines committee may recommend that Americans eat less red and processed meat, a key recommendation from AICR for lowering cancer risk. Every five years, the US Dietary Guidelines are updated based on the committee recommendations and they are due out this year.

According to reports from the committee’s most recent discussions, the 2015 nutrition and eating guidelines may also call for Americans to eat more plant foods, like vegetables, fruit, beans and whole grains, also an AICR recommendation. Research shows that eating patterns like this – more plant foods and minimal red meat –  can help prevent obesity and chronic diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

These 2015 guidelines may also call for lower sodium and specific limits on added sugars.

If enacted, these recommendations will better align with AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention and could, in the long-term, lead to fewer cancer cases. AICR estimates that about 1/3 of the most common cancer cases every year in the US wouldn’t happen if Americans followed a healthy diet, were physically active every day and maintained a healthy weight.

Guidelines like this will inform dietary advice for individuals, but will also set in motion changes for school lunches and other government food and nutrition programs. Read more about the guidelines at health.gov.

3 comments on “Less Red and Processed Meat? New Guidelines May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

  1. Lauren on

    Hi Alice,
    I am hoping you can clarify something for me in regards to the processed meat. If nitrate/nitrite/preservative free (such as Applegate) lunch meat is consumed, is that still considered “processed” and does it raise the risk of cancer just as much as regular processed meat like hot dogs, ham and bacon?

    • Alice RD on

      Hi Lauren,
      The research has not historically separated out specific aspects of processed meat, like whether it contains added nitrates/nitrites, or whether it is red meat or poultry. The nitrates/nitrites are one mechanism that may increase risk, but this is an area that needs more study. There could be other reasons processed meat consumption leads to higher risk for colorectal cancer, but it is not yet clear. For that reason we treat any meat that is smoked, salted or cured as processed. Our recommendation is to avoid eating processed meat – save it for special occasions, like holidays or occasional ballgame/tailgate. We look forward to more research on this topic, so we better understand why and how processed meat increases risk, and hopefully will be able to provide more specific.
      Thanks for your question.


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