Podcast 19 - Does Red Meat Cause Cancer?

Does Red Meat Cause Cancer


Dr. Chad: This is doctor Dr. Chad Edwards and you are listening to podcast number 19 of Against the Grain. Are you tired and fatigued? Are you frustrated with doctors because they don’t listen? Do you want to fix your pain without surgery? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then we are the clinic for you. We offer Tulsa Prolotherapy, PRP or platelet-rich plasma therapy and stencil injections; IV nutritional therapies, bioidentical hormone replacement therapies, and functional medicine to get you back on track to your optimal health. Call 9-1-8-9-3-5-3-6-3-6 or visit our website at www.revolutionhealth.org to schedule your appointment today.

Male: Welcome to Against the Grain podcast with doctor Dr. Chad Edwards, where he challenges the status quo when it comes to medicine. We get into hot topics in the medical field with real stories from real patients, to help you on your way to a healthy lifestyle. Get ready because we’re about to go, Against the Grain.

Marshall: This is Marshall Morris and today I am joined by doctor Edwards, who believes that 80% of medical recommendations are crap, technically speaking here. He is the author of Revolutionize your Health with Customized supplements, and he served in the US army for 23 years as both an enlisted soldier and as an officer, as a physician. He graduated medical school at Oklahoma State University, and he is the founder of revolutionhealth.org and Against the Grain podcast, welcome doctor Edwards.

Dr. Chad: Marshall thank you so much I am excited to be here and I am fired up today.

Marshall: Doctor Edwards what are we talking about today? What is the hot topic that we’re going to be getting into?

Dr. Chad: I just want to read this to you, it’s not like cutting edge stuff it’s been out for a little bit, but I’m just now getting to it on my desk. I’ve gotten some other things cleared off and now it’s time to hit this one. I’m going to read you the title of the New York Times post, and this is from October 26th of 2015. Again not cutting edge but a lot of people haven’t heard about this stuff, may have heard about it but meat is linked to high cancer risk, the World Health Organization report finds. Red meat and cancer that’s what we’re talking about. Tulsa Prolotherapy

Marshall: Red meat and cancer, so are we exploring the link, the correlation, the causation of is this true or is this not true?

Dr. Chad: We’re going to explore the supposed association between these two things.

Marshall: All right so go ahead and get us into this. I know that this been a hot topic something that a lot of people have talked about over the course of the years, and the most recent scare as you said, the post was in October of last year. Why is this such a big issue?

Dr. Chad: Well it’s been around for a long time, there were some studies published a long time ago well I say a long time ago, several years ago that suggested a correlation between the consumption of red meat, trying to verify red met and colon cancer or any number of cancers. This has been around for a long time, it’s not like a new thing but it seems that there has been some evidence that– I remember growing up and hearing about saturated fat, animal fat and all those kinds of things being vilified, it’s bad don’t eat that fat stuff that’s bad for you. Tulsa Prolotherapy

This big fear of fat thing and I remember back in 1984, there was a cover of Time Magazine that had two eggs and a piece of bacon, and this smiley face fashion that was trying to say that saturated fat and cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease. They’re painting this picture and so it’s been around for a while. It’s just been perpetuated and perpetuated and certainly there are groups out there that are vegan and vegetarian, that think that you shouldn’t eat meat at all, and certainly red meat is just– I get patients in all the time that will say or I’ll ask them, “How is your nutrition, how is your diet? Do you avoid any kind of foods; do you eat a certain kind of way?” They say well, “I really try to avoid red meat.” I hear it all the time, I’m sure our listeners have heard stuff like that, do you ever hear, do you ever talk about that?

Marshall: I’ve heard that, I’m actually the opposite I try and stick only to red meat, it’s the way to do.

Dr. Chad: Exactly I totally agree. I love a good steak, now we’ll tell you that the kind of red meat that you eat I believe definitely makes a difference. It doesn’t mean eat the New York strip and not the chub beef steak or something like that. I’m not talking about the kind of meat; I’m talking about the way the meat is raised and a little bit about how it’s processed.

Marshall: Okay, tell me a little bit about that because I know that’s been a really popular trend over the course of the last five years, is how the meat is raised. Does that really have an effect on how the outcome of the meat really ends up on your plate? Tulsa Prolotherapy

Dr. Chad: I got to be careful how I answer that, my opinion absolutely without a question yes, that’s an opinion. I don’t have a study definitely showing yes absolutely this definitely causes a problem, but when you think about– I believe in this concept of what we call replicate nature. How are things normally in nature and repeat that and then we do that I like to practice that way, practice medicine that way. The more we deviate from that the more we screw it up, and that’s just been my observations. Tulsa Prolotherapy

Yes I would argue that that’s absolute the case and when we talk about these studies, and we’ll get into a little bit of that in this podcast. When you talk about some of these studies they do not control for that variable. In other words the meat that you get from the big– they’re called confined feeding operations where these beef ranchers are raising cattle, they’ve got them in this confined area, there are hundreds of cows in like a 10 cow space. They’re just stressed out and their diet is controlled and all of these kinds of things.

Many times they’re given antibiotics and hormones, Recombinant bovine growth hormone is one of them because it enhances the growth of the animal, and it yields a greater weight and many of the ranchers will be compensated based on weight. The quicker you can raise a fatter, heavier cow the better. No one has looked at the actual implications of that kind of thing on human health and performance. I would say yes over that question it plays a role. Tulsa Prolotherapy

Marshall: The type of meat that’s getting to my plate and you said that the cut of meat– we’re talking about how it’s raised and the relationship of how that may ultimately affect or not affect the cause of cancer. But let’s get back to where this post, this trend, this hot topic started, when did this become something that people started talking about, red meat causes cancer?

Dr. Chad: Sure, and again it’s been for a while I remember probably the biggest one that I heard is what was called the Harvard Sturdy, and we’ll get into that in just a second. This data came out of Harvard University and so it sounds like shoot that’s Harvard, they know what they’re talking about, it must be true. Kind of like if you read it on the internet it must be true right? In this report so let’s talk a little bit about this idea that red meat causes cancer.

In this thing so the World Health Organization they got their recommendation from– let me find the name of it, that’s the I-A-R-C. International Association for Research on Cancer I believe, I’ll come across it here in a second. They do the research and look at the data and all of these kinds of things on, what are associations with cancer and the way we act and behave and things like that. Smoking, that’s one of the things that they’ve looked at, but they’ve also looked at some other things like nights shift working.

If you work at night it’s actually been shown to increase risk of cancer. It’s interesting when we’re looking at these correlations, it’s just really interesting how some of this stuff pans out. They are trying to differentiate between processed and unprocessed red meat, so processed being that something has been done to it such as flavorings, smoking, adding salt, curing those kinds of things. There is a whole category of meat that they say is– they state that there is a good data to support processed meat increases risk of cancer.

Marshall: The meat that I would get from the butcher at the grocery store is that more processed meat, or is that more of the raw unprocessed meat?

Dr. Chad: That’s unprocessed meat, you know what? If you go in and you say I want a one inch or an inch and a half or whatever steak saline sirloin New York strip whatever, that would be unprocessed red meat. Nothing has been done to that meat to alter its flavor, to alter its consistency anything like that. It’s just being cut that includes ground beef. If you say I want some fresh ground beef, yes technically it’s been processed through the meat grinder, but it hasn’t been altered in any other way. That would not be considered processed red meat according to the reports.

We’re talking about an adulterated other than cut red meat versus processed red meat. It’s interesting that they say, as you read through some of their stuff, they say that there is an association between eating processed red meat and cancer. Then they say it’s also important that we reduce unprocessed red meat. Then they say but there is not really good evidence to support or the evidence is less clear but we usually probably stay away from that too. And there’s just– it’s this whole weirdness with, it’s almost like there’s just this opinion and then we’ll find some little Link and we will say, “Okay we usually do not do that. I know it’s not big but you should not do that anyway.” As you read through some of this stuff it’s you know they make it sound like it’s, “Oh my gosh if I eat the stuff I’m going to get cancer.” And they will talk about, in this one they said that there was an 18% risk of cancer for someone that eats processed red meat. That sounds like a big deal but when you look at these numbers it’s really more like it’s going to increase it by a factor of 1.1 or 1.2. In other words you’re talking about relative risk and if you go back to podcast 101, we talk a little bit about some of the research stuff and the way research is done and relative risk versus absolute risk and things like that. So this risk ratio it’s one would be equal 1.1 raises it by a small factor. A risk factor of two would double your risk, so we’re talking about a relatively small increase in risk but then we’ll talk about an 18% increase. And it’s almost like it’s manipulating the numbers, it’s not truly manipulating the numbers but we’re changing the direction of the lights so that the shadow goes in the direction we want it. [laughs]  that’s really probably the best way for me to say it.

Every other year the IRC they have started looking at that in 1971 they found a number of different data’s points that we’ll change risk for cancer and I put these things into possibly carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic. Not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic. And again we mentioned some of the things that they’ve looked at, they’ve looked at coffee consumption, sunlight actually, night shift work and the only one that that they’ve tested in some of these categories that are probably not carcinogenic was the nylon manufacturing chemical found in drinking water supplies. So in other words sunlight changes your risk of cancer, night shift work changes your risk, coffee changes your risk. So we’re looking at– the problem is we’re looking at associations and you know if you’re redheaded do you tend to prefer turning writer turning left? You will just get like 100,000 people and then try and figure out well they tend to go this way. 51% of them go this way and will say well there’s an increased risk of they’re going to want to turn left and but there’s no cause associated with that. And so let’s take a quick break and we’ll just pay our bills real quick and then we’ll come back and we’ll get into the Harvard study and some of how these recommendations really are, in my opinion are not hard data, it’s not hard and fast.

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And were back talking about red meat and the risk of cancer. This Harvard study that we attributed to, basically the Harvard study you again you they actually well was in one of the clinics here in town. I had the medical director of the clinic he was a vegetarian and I was eating something red meat and he was like, “Why you just don’t care about your risk of cancer,” and I hadn’t done as much data digging on it now just like, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about but I hadn’t had a chance to look at it. When I looked at the data I was like you know it’s truly a shame that this guy thought that the data supported the risk of cancer and he was basing that on the primary study the Harvard study and so I started looking into the Harvard study and it’s almost criminal that someone, that any scientist would look at this data and say eating red meat causes cancer. It blows my mind. So the study was done, it started in 1976 and they terminated the study, the last time they sent out a questionnaire was in 2011 so you’re talking you know several years of data and they sent out a survey that was related to food in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1990 so, there was a four year gap there. ‘91 ‘94, ‘95, ‘98, ‘99, 2002 another three year gap. 2003 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011. My point is that it’s not consistent. It wasn’t every year and they did send out questionnaires every year but they only asked nutritionally related questions on those years.

What this study was is looking at thousands and thousands of people in fact there was 120,000 women in the study and they collected data and they just followed them over the years. They watched what they did, at least what they reported on their survey and their risk of outcomes of certain a number of things cancer was one of them. So, in this study they asked and I read these questions and they would say, “Over the last year on average how many servings of processed red meat have you had?”

Marshall: Over the course of the last year?

Dr. Chad: That’s correct.

Marshall: You said a year?

Dr. Chad: That’s correct. Marshall I’m just going to enroll you in a study real quick and it’s a one question study. Over the last year how many servings of red meat have you had on average per week?

Marshall: That’s like counting all the hamburgers, all the stakes, all of maybe the spaghetti sauce, the meat spaghetti sauce, it could be any number of things.

Dr. Chad: Yes, let’s even expand that because I believe they actually defined it this way, I don’t remember a hundred percent but I believe they defined it this way that a slice of pepperoni pizza also counted as a serving of processed red meat.

Marshall: How I’m I supposed to track all that?

Dr. Chad: Well we just want your opinion really.

Marshall: Well my interpretation of the course of the last year was?

Dr. Chad: That’s correct.

Marshall: Well that will be easier if I had perfect memory.


Dr. Chad: Yes and that right there is exactly the root of the problem. This is called a food recall study, food recall journal type of study, food recall questionnaire and there are a number of problems. Number one your ability to remember what you ate, I mean anyone’s ability to remember. I don’t remember I barely what I ate yesterday. So, that’s part of the problem they’ve actually studied food frequency questionnaires and it is notoriously inaccurate. Another thing that that doesn’t address is the report bias. So, do you consider yourself a healthy person or unhealthy person?

Marshall: I consider myself healthy with areas to improve.

Dr. Chad: I mean you know we’ve worked a little bit and you know f my opinion about nutrition. If you consider yourself a healthy person you know how I think about nutrition and diet, are you going to tell me that you’re a vegan or a vegetarian in this discussion? If you think.

Marshall: Yes, I’m going to tell you what I think you want to hear, I’m going to tell my Dentist I floss everyday too.


Dr. Chad: That’s right, exactly. [laughs]  In these studies there is the bias of the report. So, people that consider themselves healthy tend to report things that they think are healthier and they tend underreport things that they think are less healthy and that again has been studied they– which again brings to mind Anchorman they’ve done studies you know. [laughs] There’s a lot of bias in this report. The second thing is that this stuff does not look at a cause, it’s an observational study looking at as an association and you know a lot of this stuff has been done over and over and over again, in fact there was a study by John Yudkin and it was a UK study looking at TV ownership, car ownership and their association with cardiovascular disease and what they found is that there was a closer association with TV ownership and car ownership than there was with cholesterol and in fact, in the UK deaths from cardiovascular disease between 1910 and 1956 were closely associated with a number of new radio and television sets purchased each year. So again there’s buying a new TV or a new car cause cardiovascular disease. Boy if you can pin that one I’ll be impressed. So it’s just looking at an association, you have to have some other kind of study, some other question why, how is this going about? And then with red meat there are some questions about TMAO, trimethylminoxidation, some other chemicals and L-Carnitine and all these kinds of things. We’ll talk about those in a future podcast because there is some good questions with those and they’ll try and link like TMAO with red meat which very, very poorly associated as well. That’s another podcast. And then you can correlate things like ice cream consumption and shark attacks in Florida. And you can say well there is more shark attacks when people eat ice creams, so though therefore eating ice cream causes shark attacks. Are you serious?

But when you are looking at correlations, they are true correlations and there are studies you know over time that-that demonstrate that correlation is not causation. And when they actually do further studies, probably the best example of that is when they looked at the women’s health initiative and they– because you know there were something like 30 studies, there were observational studies looking at the link between cardiovascular and hormone replacement therapy. And they said that well hormone replacement therapy decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. When they actually did the study, when they were actually looking at those associations, they had to stop the study early because there was so much increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

So more studies have to be done it’s– you have to interpret the data correctly. So the other thing that this does is it does not control for other variables, the way the women’s health or the– I’m sorry the Harvard study was done it doesn’t control for variables. In other words okay so Marshall you said you eat a lot of red meat.

Marshall: Yeah.

Dr. Chad: Okay, let’s take Billie Bob next door that also eats a lot of red meat, do you smoke?

Marshall: I don’t smoke.

Dr. Chad: Okay well he does but we are not going to ask that question. Or we’re not going to put that in the data. Do you weigh 400 pounds and are 5’6”?

Marshall: No.

Dr. Chad: Okay well he does but we’re not going to put that in the data for analysis either. So there are multiple different things; how much do you exercise. Do you– how much alcohol do you drink you know those kinds of things. In the Harvard study that was not controlled, it’s just looking at meat consumption, processed meat and red meat and risk of cancer. And so there are so many different variables that again weren’t controlled that this– for the World Health Organization to come up with this recommendation or this statement it’s really in my opinion kind of sad. And there are the– when I looked at their recommendation, the only references that I could find were to these food recall observational type studies and they drew this conclusion and they’ve made it a Class I carcinogen on the same level as smoking. It’s just ridiculous and we’ll talk more about some of these things in the future, but I just wanted to touch bases and kind of get that intro on red meat.

Marshall: So as a listener here what am I really taking away here? When I’m trying to make diet decisions, and whether or not to eat red meat, if it’s a choice for other alternative reasons, maybe so, but as it relates to red meat causing cancer, if I’m not eating red meat purely because I believe it causes cancer what do you have to you know say to that?

Dr. Chad: Well first I would say that– so I would say no, that link is very, very poorly associated and I can’t make that recommendation. However, the other thing that’s not controlled in these studies is how you get your meat. How is it raised? What we talked about that earlier, so my recommendation is eat good quality clean foods, no hormones, no antibiotics, grass-pastured those kinds of things. That’s my recommendation.

Marshall: Very cool. Well thank you for getting into this and tackling this hot topic of red meat causing cancer, so I appreciate it.

Dr. Chad: Thanks Marshall.

Marshall: Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast with Dr. Chad. Tune in next week for we’ll be going Against The Grain.


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