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Red Meat for Health: A Recent WHO/IARC Ruling

Red Meat for Health: A Recent WHO/IARC Ruling

You may have read articles or heard stories about the recent World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ruling on red meat. Unfortunately, the ruling stirred up quite a bit of fear and panic, so let’s go through what the IARC is, what the ruling means, and what actions should be taken for nutrition and health.

What’s the IARC and what does this have to do with red and processed meat?

IARC is part of the World Health Organization and three times a year, IARC forms working groups to evaluate how something (like certain occupational chemicals, foods, or even the sun) impacts the risk of cancer in people.

This quarter, they reviewed red and processed meat and released their report, classifying red meat as ‘Group 2A’ and processed meat as ‘Group 1’ (more on the classification definitions here).

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What do these classifications mean?

Group 1 is defined as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and Group 2A is defined as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.’

IARC specifies that its classifications “do not measure the likelihood that cancer will occur (technically called “risk”) as a result of exposure to the agent.” The classifications also don’t capture consideration of quantity- for example, alcohol and sunlight are both Group 1.

It’s well established that overexposure to (or overconsumption of) both sunlight and alcohol comes with major health risks. That doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to moderate levels of exposure (hello vitamin D!) to things like sunlight. Dr. Roger Clemens, a noted toxicologist points out the need to put IARC’s ruling in perspective:

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“These rulings discuss hazard, but they’re reported as risk. For example, sunlight (hazard) is needed for vitamin D synthesis, yet excessive exposure increases one’s risk of skin cancer. Alcohol is a known liver toxin (hazard), yet when consumed in moderation (exposure) it reduces risk of developing adverse cardiovascular events.  There are many more examples like these. The Lancet article is clear that the evidence is weak or inconsistent. Importantly, IARC notes that its role is to identify hazard, not causality.”

How does this impact my diet?

Meat can certainly be part of a healthful, balanced diet, and the key is moderation. Just like sun exposure, too much may increase your health risks, but too little can leave you missing valuable nutrients. At this point, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans haven’t issued recommendations for quantity of meat in the diet. However, the Guidelines have encouraged lean proteins, along with whole grains and vegetables, for a healthful balanced diet. Keep your plate balanced, and be sure to watch your portion sizes.

What is a correct portion size?

The right portion size is a cooked 3-ounce serving of lean beef—about the size of a standard deck of playing cards. Of course, total calories, protein, and other nutrients will differ based on the type of meat. There are more than 30 cuts of lean meat in grocery stores; find your favorite, and enjoy with portion sizes in mind!

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It’s important to remember that there’s a lot of variety within ‘processed meats’ too – it’s worth the time to check the nutrition info on your food to scope out the valuable stuff (Protein! Vitamins!) and make sure it fits in your calorie budget. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report included 3 USDA dietary patterns, which suggest the amount of food to meet recommended nutrient intakes at various calorie levels. The 2000 calorie diet includes recommendations for 12.5 ounces of meat (or equivalent) per week, approximately 4 servings, to meet nutrient needs.

What are some nutritional benefits of eating red meat?

Turns out, there are many benefits of eating red meat. Up first: protein.

Lean red meat is one of the best protein sources that we can eat, containing roughly 21-25g per 3 ounce serving. The protein found in red meat, as with all other animal products, is considered a complete protein source. This means that it provides our bodies with all the essential amino acids in the right amounts. Protein is not just associated with building bigger muscles- it also is responsible for the growth and repair of all our tissues, organs, and bones. Proteins facilitates the transportation of oxygen and nutrients through our bloodstream and across cell membranes. Proteins are essential for DNA replication, which is important for cellular turnover, and are key components of your immune system, which is critical for fighting disease! Protein also plays an important role in weight loss and weight maintenance as it contributes to the feeling of being full.

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Red meat also contains a variety of highly bioavailable nutrients, including heme iron, zinc, and B-vitamins. Studies have shown that heme iron and zinc from animal sources are more easily transported across the membranes in our gut, aiding in the absorption of these minerals. This means that we get more bang for our buck in terms of iron and zinc from red meat. Iron is necessary for red blood cell health, oxygen transport, enzyme production, and mental development.

Zinc, on the other hand, plays an important role in boosting immune function, regulating hormones, and healing wounds. The high riboflavin content of red meat further facilitates the proper storage and facilitation of iron in our bodies. Additionally, red meat is a source of a variety of antioxidants, such as carnosine, anserine, and lipoic acid among others. These antioxidants protect against cellular damage and decrease the risk of excessive inflammation.

So what does this all mean and what should you do moving forward?

Bottom line, meat is an excellent source of protein and other important nutrients we are lacking in our diets. It packs a great nutritional punch. By controlling portion sizes and choosing lean cuts, red and processed meat can be part of a healthful diet.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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