A FIVE-YEAR STUDY of the eating habits of half a million people in ten European countries has found that a diet rich in red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
However, the average British consumer should not be at risk, according to industry trade body The Meat and Livestock Commission.
People who eat two portions a day increase their risk of cancer by 35% compared to those who eat only one portion of meat a week, according to the study.
It also found, however, that fibre from vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals reduced the risks associated with eating meat.
Moreover, it was found that eating fish on a regular basis was protective against cancer.
The study is published in the Journal of the International Cancer Institute.
It was funded by the World Health Organisation’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC), the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.
Of the people studied, those who had the highest risk of developing cancer were those who habitually ate more than 160g of meat a day.
The average Briton eats only 93g of meat a day, however, and the Meat and Livestock Commission said the study revealed the need for dietary moderation.
Mike Attenborough, MLC technical director, said: “Once again this points towards the need for moderation and balance in what we eat. Meat is typically eaten with vegetables and sources of fibre such as potatoes, all of which are considered by scientists to have a protective effect against bowel cancer.”
“Lean red meat is recognised as an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and research shows it is a valuable source of protein, iron, zinc and other essential nutrients,” Dr Attenborough said.