Scientists confirm direct link between bowel cancer and red meat consumption

A new report described as "the most authoritative ever" to confirm the link between red meat and the risk of developing bowel cancer has experts around the world sounding the alarm on keeping meat consumption to a minimum.

The report is part of the Continuous Update Project (CUP), a compilation of 749 scientific papers studying the link between diet, physical activity, weight and colorectal cancer that's been ongoing since 2007. The report was entitled "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective."

The project is overseen by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The recent addition of 263 new papers confirming the same message moved the two groups to issue a strong statement Monday, warning the public to reduce their consumption of red and processed meats.

Experts also concluded evidence that fiber-rich foods reduce the risk of bowel cancer has become stronger since the publication of the initial report in 2007. They deemed the evidence sufficient enough to strengthen the conclusion from "probable" to "convincing."

Similarly, just as physical activity was found to reduce the risk of bowel cancer, excess body fat - especially around the waist - and alcohol consumption were deemed to increase the risk of onset.

As part of the review, experts recommend that people consume a plant-based diet that includes fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and pulses like beans.

Scientists also recommended limiting weekly meat intake to 500 g - roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portion of roast beef, lamb or pork - and to avoid processed meats.

Every week, colorectal cancer claims the lives of 320 people in the UK, 73 lives in Australia, 175 lives in Canada and 24 lives in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, another study published last October in the British Medical Journal online, found that almost a quarter of bowel cancer cases could be prevented in the UK if people followed a healthy lifestyle that included physical activity and healthy eating.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK.

For a better sense of portion size, the National Health Service offers the following guideline and recommendations:

A Big Mac: 70 g
A 5oz steak: 102 g
An 8oz beef steak: 163 g
A large doner kebab: 130 g

They also advise better portion control by swapping extra meat helpings with extra vegetables and downsizing servings. Instead of a standard burger, for instance, choose a chicken, fish or veggie burger. Better yet, try to institute a meat-free day.

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