There has always been some degree of disagreement when it comes to the connection between red meat and colon cancer. Like most things when it comes to good health, the answer and the connections are not that simple.

I remember having a “discussion” a decade or so ago with a representative from the AZ Beef Council who absolutely refused to acknowledge that red meat was a player in colon cancer and heart disease. Not that she had a biased position (I could imagine that her tenure as an employee would probably be pretty short without this biased opinion).

Now, more than a decade later, it is clear that an animal based diet high in animal based proteins (the magic number seems to be around 20%–so keep animal proteins, including dairy, under 20% of your protein intake). But the story is not that straightforward.

Clearly, the quality of the meat plays a role.  Organic, grass fed beef that is grass fed throughout the entire lifecycle will have a better effect on our health. Wild game falls into the same category. And for the record, pork is NOT the “other white meat.” Really…when was the last time you looked at bacon and thought “white meat”…?

Adding spices to red meat can increase the value of the meat and lower the potential for damage to our health.

This particular article adds more information to the overall picture of how red meat consumption does or does not contribute to colon cancer risk. 

Regular readers will already know what a telomere is. As a refresher, consider them as the wick on the end of the DNA of our cells. When this wick burns down, that’s it. The cell is no more. So, the longer the telomere on the end of our DNA, the longer that cell is going to live and, by extension, the longer you are going to live.  (Click here to read more on telomeres)

The authors looked at what happened to the length of the telomeres of the colon cells when resistant starch was added to a diet of red meat and found that resistant starch actually protected the telomeres from being shortened in the presence of red meat in the diet.

This says two things. First, red meat clearly plays some role in the development of colon cancer. Two, the addition of resistant starch (think of foods like beans, whole grains and basmati rice) protected the telomeres in the colon cells.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.