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What you need to know about the recent red meat/cancer report

What you need to know about the recent red meat/cancer report

This issue doesn’t seem to be going away at all. A few weeks ago the World Health Organization tried to pull a Kim Kardashian and break the internet with its report on the connection between red meat and cancer.

They released a report linking red meat and processed meat with cancer and media outlets, websites, blogs and new stations jumped all over this info calling out red meat for essentially being the devil.

As it tends to happen with reports like this, a lot of the information was shared incorrectly and conclusions were jumped to. Here’s what you need to know about the insights into the red meat/cancer issue.

Weaker Observational Studies Were Used

If you follow science and research you know that these types of studies are some of the least effective in finding real results. In this case, it was the International Agency for Research on Cancer that was taking information from 800 different studies and trying to connect some dots. And the way they gathered their information regarding the red meat issue? Was it through clinical studies, hospital reports and medical examinations? Nope, it was done by food questionnaires.

The goal of the IARC was to identify the possible agents that can cause cancer and have so far come up with a list of 900. Out of those 900 agents, only 1 has not been linked to cancer. They broke down these agents into different categories using vague terms like “may” cause cancer or “possibly” could cause cancer.

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Also on this huge list of possibly causing cancer? Coffee and wine.

These studies are not looking at a direct causation between a certain item like a hot dog and cancer but just that these agents contain one or more compounds that COULD cause cancer. This is an important distinction as correlation and causation are two entirely different things.

Ice Cream & Murder

An example of how correlation or association can give you some skewed results is the findings that increased sales in ice cream lead to a higher murder rate. I’m not saying some Rocky Road will turn you into Charles Manson but when you look at when ice cream sales rise it tends to be when it gets warmer in the summer months. When the heat goes up it also creates irritability and aggression in people that can lead to more violent crimes including murder. So when you look at many variables that are all grouped together the connection can be made between higher ice cream sales and murder rates.

Here’s another one; Margarine sales lead to divorce.

Red Meat, Cigarettes and Asbestos

Since processed meats like bologna, hot dogs and beef jerky contain one or more compounds that could lead to cancer they get placed into the same category as noted cancer causers like cigarettes and asbestos. Again, not a fair connection. They can fall under the same umbrella but have vastly different percentages in danger.

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A good example used to illustrate this is bananas and cars. A banana is harmless, but the discarded skin has the possibility to make you slip and hurt yourself. There is no chance of this happening as high as there to be in a car crash, but they can both cause accidents so need to be put in the same accident causing category. And obviously the results of a car crash are much more severe. So look at the processed meat as the banana peel and things like cigarettes and asbestos as the car crash.

Cigarettes increase your relative risk of lung cancer by 2500% and the stat thrown around about processed meat and colorectal cancer says eating 2 slices of bacon a day can increase your relative risk for it by 18%. But when you look at the lower frequency of colorectal cancer the risk of actually getting it drops to 5-6%.

Alfred Neuget, who is an oncologist and cancer epidemiologist from Columbia says, “If this is the level of risk you’re running your life on, then you really don’t have much to worry about.”

Ignoring Other Lifestyle Factors

To me, this is where it gets ridiculous. These reports pluck one single thing out, in this case, processed meat, and blames it for disease. They fail to recognize one or many other factors that have disease-causing potential. They fail to recognize things like:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • High Body Mass Index
  • Overconsumption of sugar
  • Alcohol intake
  • Consumption of fried foods

You don’t need to be an expert to see that this list above has the potential to cause a lot of problems and these factors are not taken into consideration as red meat is singled out.

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Combining Unprocessed Meat & Processed Meat

Again another misleading result as the difference between a Slim Jim and grass fed beef is night and day. Somehow out of all this hoopla came the idea that unprocessed fresh meat was under attack while the report was looking at processed meats.

When you look at the last 3 decades of research and findings fresh meat has actually very little to do with cancer. The associations between colorectal cancer and red meat are so weak they are considered “statistically insignificant”.

The most recent updates to this issue only show the continued weak association and the role of red meat causing colorectal cancer have been increasingly contested by the scientific community.

What You Can Take Away From All This

The main point for men out there and your families is that you don’t need red meat to be healthy. But if you do consume it, don’t worry about recent reports from the W.H.O and the media hoopla scare you away from it.

It’s probably safe to stay away from things like hot dogs and beef jerky, but we already knew that. One last thing is any studies conducted on fresh meat rarely use grass fed and finished hormone free, organic beef. This beef is the polar opposite of factory raised, farm lot grocery store beef that generally is used. Also not factored in are the cooking methods like high heat and smoking that can be responsible for creating carcinogens that are not found in the meat.

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Similar to the rest of your diet, try to find the cleanest sources of food possible, and when you see reports and findings on any nutrition information, dig deeper and keep educating yourself on the entire issue.

And you don’t need to listen to the media, no matter how much Kim Kardashian tries to make you listen..

Featured photo credit: Ronald Sarayudej via flickr.com

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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