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National Vegetarian Week: Why are we eating meat? Part 1

GOODNESS: Fresh vegetables

LIKE IT or not, there is a connection between the food we eat and the way that we feel.

Well-being in relation to what we are consuming has taken on a greater significance and importance in the past decade, as people become more aware of their how their eating habits are directly impacting on their health.

The Voice looks at some research on the correlation between food and wellbeing and the growing body of evidence which points to the impact food is having on us every day, and why we should reduce or totally cut out any meat.

Red meat and cancer

Research published by the British Journal of Cancer in 2011 indicates that one in 10 cancers cases in the UK are caused by unhealthy diet. In the section entitled Cancers Attributable to Dietary Factors in the UK, findings relating to red meat were highlighted as follows:

• Consumption of red meat (beef, lamb, goat, pork and veal) has been associated with the risk of both colon and in particular rectal cancer

• Carcinogenic compounds in red meat formed during processing or cooking is identified as a causation factor

• Cooking meat at high temperatures is indicated as a risk factor

• The high fat content of the meat boosts hormone production, increasing the risk of hormone-related cancers of the breast and prostate

• Meat lacks fibre which is a protective factor.

The advice?

The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s (WCRF/AICR) issued a joint press release on 23 May 2011 highlighting their research on cancer and diet. An excerpt reads:

“On meat, the clear message that comes out of our report is that red and processed meat increase risk of bowel cancer and that people who want to reduce their risk should consider cutting down the amount they eat.”

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Evidence from the World Health Organisation in 1990 concluded that populations consuming at least 400g of fruit and vegetables daily can reduce the risk of deaths from chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

However, data from the Health Survey for England show that the average number of portions consumed is less than the Department of Health recommendations, with men consuming only 3.5 portions and women 3.8 portions (Aresu et al, 2009).

Latest figures from Cancer Research UK points to a positive link between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduced rates of certain cancers. In a report captioned Fruit and Vegetables May Reduce The Risk of Some Cancers, they found the following:

• Research has suggested that eating fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of mouth, upper throat, larynx and lung cancers

• Fruit and vegetables contain a wide variety of different nutrients with properties that could make it more difficult for cancer to develop. These nutrients include carotenoids, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, flavonoids and various other phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants)

• Fruit and vegetables are also a very good source of natural fibre and there is strong evidence that eating foods high in fibre reduces the risk of bowel cancer

• In the UK, most of us do not eat the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.

Part 2 of this piece will be published tomorrow at 4pm GMT.

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