Saturday, 14 November 2015


By Sam Maondu.

There is a growing body of evidence linking red meat and processed meat to increasing prevalence of heart diseases and cancer. Red meat is any mammalian muscle meat like beef, veal, lamb, mutton, horse and goat. 

Processed meat is meat that had undergone processes either to enhance taste or preservation to increase shelf life. Salting, curing, fermentation or smoking are some of the processes used to transform processed meat.

There is a growing body of evidence linking red meat and processed meat to increased risk of cancer which led International Advisory Committee to convene a meeting in 2014 to evaluate the risks based on epidemiological studies already published.

The committee found out that:-
  • There is positive association between high consumption of red meat to increased risks of cancer.
  • High temperature cooking of red meat and processed meat generated compound like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic aromatic amines. These compounds increase risks of colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostatic cancer and stomach cancer. 
  • During processing of meat, N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced and are essential compounds in tumorigenesis over the colorectal cell lining and eventually causes cancer.
  • Eating processed meat daily increases risks for cancer. Research has shown that every 50 grams portion taken daily increases colorectal cancer risks by 18%.
  • Eating processed meat accounts for 34, 000 deaths per annum worldwide and red meat about 50, 000 deaths per annum according to Global Burden of Disease Project. 
  • In order to mitigate the known cancer risks, one should limit intake of processed and red meat meat.

Other compounds in red meat and processed meat.

L-carnitine- red meat and processed meat contains an ample source of L-carnitine. When ingested, the L-carnitine is acted up on by the gut bacteria to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO clogs blood arteries causing them to be hard and thin. (Atherosclerosis) 
Carnitine is also found in popular energy drinks.

Homocysteine- people who eat a lot of animal protein may have an elevated level of homocysteine in the blood. High level of homocysteine causes injury to the blood vessel wall with an imminent sequelae of blood clot formation.

Haem iron- It has been found to be toxic to the body cells and may lead to production of free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and causes destruction of the cell protein, DNA and membrane.

Nitrates and Nitrites- these two compounds are found in processed meat which our bodies convert to nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have a propensity to initiate cancerous cell transformation along the colorectal cell line and eventually causes cancer.
Saturated fatty acids- Red meat naturally contains saturated fatty acids which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Saturated fatty acids are associated with abnormal lipid levels, elevated total cholesterol level,high level of LDL (bad) cholesterol, low level of HDL (good) cholesterol and high level of triglycerides in the blood. 

Q&A on carcinogenicity of consumption of red meat and processed meat- WHO. October 2015. Address:
Red meat consumption linked to increased risk of total, cardiivascular, and cancer mortality- Harvard T.H Chan. Address:
Saturated fat- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Last edit: 30 October, 2015. Address: