Beef and Cancer, Again
Some people just can't take a hint. Consider, for example, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Upon learning the results of a brand new, large-scale study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute showing that eating beef and processed meats sharply increases the risk of colon, lung, and other cancers, the Cattlemen launched some perky press releases touting the benefits of regular meat consumption. Not surprisingly, their pro-beef blitz dismissed the study results. "It's difficult to draw strong conclusions based on the limitations of this type of research," Mary K. Young, VP of Nutrition and the Cattleman's spokesperson, says.
Hold your horses! "Difficult to draw strong conclusions?" That's like saying that it's difficult to determine who raided the cookies when your kid has chocolate smeared all over his chin. This so-called inconclusive study followed 500,000 steak-loving men and women between the ages of 50-71 over a period of 20 years. Results indicated that subjects who consumed hearty amounts of beef had a 25 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with bowel, liver, lung and esophageal cancers.
Is half a million subjects too limited a sample size for the big-sky Cattlemen? Is a 25 percent increased risk factor a mere trifle?
It's not exactly breaking news that beef makes the body unhappy. Within the past year, I've commented on breaking research linking low sperm count throughout a man's life to heavy beef consumption by his mother, as well as on studies linking beef to breast cancer. Myriad other studies make clear that gorging on beef leads to trouble, but the Cattlemen, apparently, don't see eye to eye with the medical establishment. In spite of the avalanche of evidence, their newest press release insists that eating 5½ ounces of lean protein each and every day is important to a healthy diet -- while reminding us that 29 different cuts of beef fit the bill.
A few years ago, when the USDA undertook an update of the food pyramid, heavy lobbying from the Cattlemen insured that beef retained its glorified position in the pack. Experts suggested distinguishing red meat consumption from poultry and lean proteins, but at the time, Mary Young (yes, the same Mary Young cited above who finds today's study "inconclusive") said that any changes to the meat group "would concern me. I don't think the science would support minimizing the meat group that everybody needs, in particular kids."
And so the dance continues. Once again, when there's profit to be made, the truth becomes a malleable commodity. But then again, this has been true since the beginning of recorded history. Remember, it was the ancient Romans who coined the phrase, "Caveat emptor" -- buyer beware!