WHO Says Meat Causes Cancer?

Earlier this week the media was ecstatic to share new research from the World Health Organization (WHO) ‘apparently’ showing that eating processed meat increased cancer risk. With headline worthy stats like:

“Eating 50 grams of processed meat every day can increase the risk of cancer by 18%.”

“Diets high in processed meat responsible for 34,000 deaths from cancer every year”


Not only that, but the cancer agency for the WHO (the IARC) decided it was appropriate to classify processed meat as ‘carcinogenic to humans,’ and give it the same Category 1 rating as cigarette smoke, formaldehyde, and air pollution.

Bold statements, considering the research they’re looking at is correlative not causative.   Which is equivalent to saying ice cream sales are associated with shark attacks.  Or as this hilarious site shows us:

Nicolas Cage films are correlated with drowning in a swimming pool.

nick cage


Divorces in Maine are correlated with margarine consumption.


Sure the evidence was from a ‘Review Study,’ which generally holds a little more weight with respect to credibility, but not when it’s a collection of observational studies (based on food questionnaires). As all that gives us is a giant average of crappy data.

Crappy data presented in an extremely misleading way – like they’re Big Pharma trying to sell-you on the latest wonder drug.


The WHO’s ‘relative risk’ calculation of 18% may be accurate, but take a quick look at what that actually means (using simple numbers):

  • 1000 people eat greater than 50g of processed meat per day
    • 50 get cancer
  • 1000 people eat less than 50g of processed meat
    • 41 get cancer
  • Relative risk = 50 – 41/50 = 18%

In other words, for every 1000 people that eats WAY more processed meat than the average person, an additional 9 will develop cancer – 18% more than the 41 that would’ve developed cancer anyways.

Doesn’t sound as crazy now does it?

This is why looking at the ‘absolute risk’ is more reliable; which was less than 0.01% in this case.

But aside from the unreliable data and unfair conclusions, it’s ridiculous for the WHO to try and blame 1 food item, and ignoring the rest of the diet.

The WHO is attacking bacon and sausages, and ignoring the breakfast sandwich they’re putting them on, and the beer and pop they’re next to.

It seems they’re trying VERY hard to implicate meat of all kind.  Also putting ‘unprocessed’ red meat in the same category as Monsanto’s herbicide, Glyphosate (Roundup) and spouting rubbish like:

“Red Meat ‘probably’ causes cancer.”

Translation – we played with the data as much as we could to produce a correlation with red meat, but our jobs as scientists are more important than our positions as vegetarian activists.  So we went with ‘probably.’


Has anyone told her vegetarians get more colorectal cancer than meat-eaters?

All jokes aside, there’s STILL no credible research showing an association with red meat and cancer, and any ‘correlations’ with processed meat are no stronger than any of the hundreds of studies on other cancer-causing foods.


Or the:

28% increased colorectal cancer risk from eating ‘any food at any time.’

Realistically, the only cancer prevention technique you should be adopting nutrition wise, is the one that lowers body fat.  Which ironically, starts with eating MORE meat.

The same meat we’ve relied on for millions of years to thrive. And the same meat that gave us a big ol’ brain to recognize BS research when we see it.

Stay Lean!
Coach Mike


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