Scientists cry foul over IARC red meat-cancer conclusions

…the process typically involves scientists who have previously published research on the substance being reviewed and may have a vested interest in defending their own research…

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewImagine that!

Anyone who cites anything done by the UN (WHO) has proven him/her-self to be a moron. — jtl, 419

by in BEEF Editors’ Blog

A Handbook for Ranch Managers “Given the weak associations in human studies and lack of evidence in animal studies, it is hard to reconcile the committee’s vote,” says nutritional toxicologist James Coughlin, Ph.D., CFS. “Of more than 900 items IARC has reviewed, including coffee, sunlight and night shift work, they have found only one ‘probably’ does not cause cancer, according to their classification system.”

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualCoughlin is referring to Monday’s widely publicized report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which suggests that eating processed red meats is akin to smoking cigarettes when it comes to cancer risk. The same report also labels red meat consumption with the second-highest carcinogenic risk classification.

Combat Shooter's Handbook Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsSpecifically, the IARC Monographs Programme classified consumption of processed red meat as, “carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on evidence that it causes colorectal cancer.”

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)The IARC Monographs Programme classified the consumption of red meat as, “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.”

These are the IARC risk classifications: Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans); Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans); Group 3 (not classified as to its carcinogenicity to humans); Group 4 (probably not carcinogenic to humans).

Scientific community critical of IARC process, findings

Coughlin, a toxicologist with more than 40 years of experience in meat and cancer, is critical of the IARC review process due to the lack of transparency, selective inclusion or exclusion of studies and broad interpretation of study results that are inconsistent with the conclusions of the study authors.

“In my experience as an observer to an IARC working group, the process typically involves scientists who have previously published research on the substance being reviewed and may have a vested interest in defending their own research,” Coughlin says. “In the case of red and processed meat, the overall scientific evidence simply does not support their conclusion.”

“It was clear sitting in the IARC meeting that many of the panelists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data,” says Betsy Booren, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute. “They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.”

According to Booren, red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard.’

“Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by IARC not to cause cancer,” Booren explains. “IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air (Group 1 carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (Group 1), apply aloe vera (Group 2B) if you get a sunburn, drink wine or coffee (Group 1 and Group 2B), or eat grilled food (Group 2A). And if you are a hairdresser or do shiftwork (both Group 2A), you should seek a new career.”

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Table of Contents:

As the fallout and reaction to the controversial IARC report listing beef as “probably carcinogenic” to humans, BEEF continues its analysis of the issue and the science regarding beef’s role in the diet.

A large meta-analysis, published online in May in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, analyzed the relationship between red meat intake and risk for colorectal cancer and concluded, “red meat does not appear to be an independent predictor of CRC risk.” That’s according to Dominik Alexander, Ph.D., MSPH, the epidemiologist who conducted the research on behalf of the Beef Checkoff.

According to Alexander, studies in nutritional epidemiology can be highly prone to bias due to such things as self-reported dietary intake, for which habits may change over time. Because of this, associations reported in nutritional epidemiology may be surrounded by uncertainty.

For instance, most, if not all, of the observational studies with red meat are limited by confounding factors. For example, studies have shown that people who consume the most red meat are the most likely to smoke, eat fewer fruits and vegetables and be overweight or obese – all of which may confound the relationship between eating red meat and risk of cancer.

As well, more recent studies in large cohorts find no association or non-significant associations between red meat and cancer. For instance, a recent Harvard study using the well known The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and The Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) found unprocessed meat intake had an inverse association with distal colon cancer and a weak, statistically non-significant, positive association with risk of proximal colon cancer.

“There are a constellation of factors that are associated with the probability of getting cancer, which include age, genetics, socioeconomic characteristics, obesity, lack of physical activity, where you grew up, alcohol consumption, smoking and even your profession,” says Alexander. “The bottom line is the epidemiologic science on red meat consumption and cancer is best described as weak associations and an evidence base that has weakened over time. And most importantly, because red meat is consumed in the context of hundreds of other foods and is correlated with other behavioral factors, it is not valid to conclude red meat is an independent cause of cancer.”

In addition, gold-standard nutrition evidence such as the Women’s Health Initiative and the Polyp Prevention Trial, two large, multi-year randomized controlled dietary interventions, found that a 20% reduction in red meat consumption did not reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and/or had no effect on adenoma recurrence in the large bowel. These studies were disregarded from the IARC review.

Shalene McNeill, Ph.D., RD, beef checkoff nutrition scientist and registered dietitian, observed the recent IARC process. After seven days of deliberation, rather than consensus agreement, which it typically seeks, the committee of 22 settled for “majority” agreement.

“Cancer is a complex disease that even the best and brightest minds don’t fully understand,” McNeill says. “Billions of dollars have been spent on studies all over the world and no single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer. The opinion by the IARC committee to list red meat as a probable carcinogen does not change that fact. The available scientific evidence simply does not support a causal relationship between red or processed meat and any type of cancer.”

Most scientists agree that it is unrealistic to isolate a single food as a cause of cancer from a complex dietary pattern further confounded by lifestyle and environmental factors.

“As a registered dietitian and mother, my advice hasn’t changed. To improve all aspects of your health, eat a balanced diet, which includes lean meats like beef, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and, please don’t smoke,” says McNeill.

According to IARC, a summary of the final evaluations is available online in The Lancet Oncology.

Discussion of this Blog Entry

How can you trust a panel of “scientists” who don’t even understand the nature of nitrates? (If they do, they are deliberately using the common perception that they are dangerous to stir up hysteria about eating meat.) Below is part of an article I wrote in 2013:

“It seems we just can’t resist bacon. Sales for bacon have held steady in spite of the fact that most people believe it is the most dangerous of all foods. It is a guilty pleasure that borders on addiction and the Kryptonite that has weakened the resolve of many a vegetarian.

The basis for our fear of cured meats rests on some misconceptions about the nature of nitrites/nitrates. Did you know that one serving of arugula, two servings of butterhead lettuce, or four servings of celery contain the same amount of nitrites as 468 servings of bacon? Or that the saliva in your mouth contains more than any of them?

Our own saliva provides 80 percent of our total exposure to nitrites and vegetables are our main source of nitrites from foods. This is not surprising considering that nitrites occur naturally in plants as a result of the nitrogen cycle where nitrogen is fixed by bacteria. The soil and everything that grows in it is full of nitrogen and the air we breath is 78% nitrogen.

To see if people could be getting too many nitrites from vegetables, the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the EFSA (European Safety Authority) compiled the results from 20 its member states and Norway on the nitrite levels in produce. The report was published in the June 5, 2008, EFSA Journal. Here are some of the average levels they found: arugula, 4,677 ppm (parts per million); butter head lettuce, 2,026 ppm; beets, 1,279 ppm; celery, 1,103 ppm; hot dogs or processed meat, 10 ppm. (1)

So why the bad rap for bacon? Back in the ’50s, some babies were sickened by formula made with contaminated well water. The effect was blamed on the high concentration of nitrites in the wells and the EPA set its Maximum Contaminant Level for nitrate in water at 44 mg/L based on the findings. The nitrate in the offending wells came from fecal contamination. It is now thought that the problem was not caused by nitrates but by the fecal bacteria that infected the infants. (2)

In the 1970s, a small study of rats done at MIT started the nitrites-cause-cancer scare. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed the scientific data in 1981 and found no link between nitrates or nitrites and human cancers. Since then, more than 50 studies have investigated a possible link and found no association. Even more surprising, scientific evidence is building that nitrates are actually good for us. They are produced in our bodies in greater amounts than we eat in food and nitrate is important for maintaining healthy immune and cardiovascular systems. It is being studied as a treatment for high blood pressure, heart attacks, sickle cell disease, and circulatory problems. Some researchers argue that the strength of the evidence linking the consumption of nitrates/nitrites to health benefits supports the consideration of these compounds as nutrients. (3)

“The public perception is that nitrite/nitrate are carcinogens, but they are not. …If nitrite and nitrate were harmful to us, then we would not be advised to eat green leafy vegetables or swallow our own saliva….”~~Dr. Nathan Bryan, Ph.D., the University of Texas, Houston, whose research has unveiled many beneficial effects of nitrite

“It is undisputed that nitrate ingestion widens arteries. Bacteria in the mouth and gut reduce nitrate to nitrite, which is then converted by nitric oxide synthase into the endothelium-derived relaxing factor nitric oxide. That is why sublingual nitrate can resolve an episode of angina pectoris. There is also some evidence that nitrate reduces blood pressure.” (4)

So what about those expensive nitrite-free, uncured hot dogs, bacon, and hams being sold as healthful alternatives? They use natural sources like celery, beets, and sea salt for the same chemical and some of them have more of it than conventionally cured meats. A chemical is still the same chemical no matter where it comes from….”

(The rest of the article with the links to the footnotes is on The Carb Wars Blog with the title, “Rethinking Bacon and the Best Way to Cook It.”)

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View

edited by

Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume

Is now available in both PAPERBACK and Kindle

BookCoverImageMurray N. Rothbard was the father of what some call Radical Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism which Hans-Hermann Hoppe described as “Rothbard’s unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.”

This book applies the principles of this “unified moral science” to environmental and natural resource management issues.

The book started out life as an assigned reading list for a university level course entitled Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View.

As I began to prepare to teach the course, I quickly saw that there was a plethora of textbooks suitable for universal level courses dealing with environmental and natural resource economics. The only problem was that they were all based in mainstream neo-classical (or Keynesian) theory. I could find no single collection of material comprising a comprehensive treatment of environmental and natural resource economics based on Austrian Economic Theory.

However, I was able to find a large number of essays, monographs, papers delivered at professional meetings and published from a multitude of sources. This book is the result. It is composed of a collection of research reports and essays by reputable scientists, economists, and legal experts as well as private property and free market activists.

The book is organized into seven parts: I. Environmentalism: The New State Religion; II. The New State Religion Debunked; III. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics; IV. Interventionism: Law and Regulation; V. Pollution and Recycling; VI. Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain; and VII. Free Market Conservation. It also includes an elaborate Bibliography, References and Recommended Reading section including an extensive Annotated Bibliography of related and works on the subject.

The intellectual level of the individual works ranges from quite scholarly to informed editorial opinion.


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About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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