Bringing home the bacon might not be such a great idea, according to stricter new dietary advice from the British government issued on Friday.
In the first new guidelines since 1998, Britain advised people to help prevent cancer by cutting down on steaks, hamburgers, sausages and other red meat. Government experts say people should eat no more than 500g of red meat a week, or 70g every day, significantly less than it previously recommended. That works out to about one small lamb chop a day.
Scientists think people who eat a lot of meat like lamb, roast beef and ham have a higher risk of bowel cancer. In 2005, a large European study found people who ate about 160g of red meat a day bumped up their bowel cancer risk by one third compared with people who ate the least meat. On average, people have about a one-in-19 chance of developing bowel cancer in their lifetime.
“This doesn’t mean people have to become vegetarian, but if you’re having a steak every day, that’s probably not helping,” said Ed Yong, head of health information and evidence at Cancer Research UK.
In Britain, more than 40 percent of men eat almost as much meat as is contained in a quarter-pound (113g) hamburger every day.
Yong said there was too little data to know what might be a safe level of red meat consumption, but recommended people consider trimming their carnivorous habits. “There are no guarantees,” he said. “This is just about stacking the odds in your favor.”
Dame Sally Davies, interim chief medical officer, said red meat was part of a healthy diet, but advised people who eat a lot of it to cut down. In a statement, she said the guidelines provided advice about how to prevent bowel cancer.
High levels of meat consumption have also been linked to cancers of the breast, bladder, stomach and the pancreas.
In 1998, UK government officials said people could safely eat as much as 90g a day and that only people who consumed more than 140g should worry.