WHO says WHAT?!

Bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, beef jerky, ham. As you are reading this list, your mouth may be watering. You might be thinking about a nice Sunday brunch you had with some of these foods. You definitely will not, however, think that these foods cause cancer…
Earlier this fall, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization) released a report evaluating the carcinogenicity of processed and red meats. After reviewing scientific studies, a group of scientists from ten countries classified processed meats (bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, beef jerky, ham) as a Group 1 carcinogen, and red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat) as a Group 2A carcinogen.
Now what do these classifications mean? A Group 1 classification labels items as carcinogenic to humans. Alongside processed meats, other carcinogenic agents in the Group 1 classification include, but are not limited to: neutron radiation, tobacco smoking, and asbestos. Group 2A agents are considered most likely carcinogenic to humans, which include: DDT, biomass fuel, and inorganic lead compounds. In the press release, the IARC states, “Experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”
So what can we conclude about this report? Many news outlets conclude that the moderation of consuming meat is the solution. However, would we say the same thing about smoking cigarettes? The truesolution is adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Large prospective observational studies show that vegetarian diets are “modestly cancer protective (10%–12% reduction in overall cancer risk).” Although this change may seem difficult at first, there are many resources to make the transition from meat-eating to meat-free seamless. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), for example, is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism and veganism, by providing recipes and nutritional information on their website (http://www.vrg.org/). Additionally, many chain restaurants, like Chipotle and Panera, provide vegetarian, and even vegan, options due to popular demand. The IARC’s study shows that vegetarianism not only saves animals–it saves our health.