Experts Respond to WHO Report: Less Meat Still the Healthiest Choice

November 9th, 2015

World Health OrganizationLast month the World Health Organization (WHO) made a media splash with news that shook much of the meat-eating world: regularly consuming processed meats has been scientifically linked to increasing the risk of certain cancers. In the weeks since reporters, broadcasters, and thought leaders have been buzzing with questions about the findings. How much processed meat is too much? Which meats have a higher risk of causing cancer? Which cancers are most closely linked to consuming processed meats? Is all meat a problem for human health, or is consuming some still considered a healthy choice?

With so many questions being asked, experts have been weighing in on what the healthiest option is in light of the new findings: consuming a little less animal protein is still one of the healthier changes meat-eaters can make. Tina Colaizzo-Anas, associate professor in Buffalo State’s Health, Nutrition and Dietetics Department and director of its Dietitian Education Program reiterated that the WHO findings weren’t news for professionals in the field, who have long known about risks associated with eating more meat than recommended.

Professor Colaizzo-Anas has been teaching the “guidelines of avoiding red meat since 2007,” and noted that “limiting your consumption of red meat and avoiding processed meat was among them.” Since 2007, her “students have critically reviewed a number of randomized clinical trials that provide biological evidence to support the charge that red meat increases risk for cancer.”

“You often hear ‘all things in moderation.’ I say moderation in one’s personal modification of diet, meaning if you love red meat, you might not be able to eliminate it all at once, but you can decrease it to a level where you feel comfortable and then continue to decrease it over time as you move toward your goal.” – Professor Colaizzo-Anas (emphasis added)

The WHO has also responded to questions about the health benefits and risks associated with eating meat. In a statement they affirmed that “the latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.”

In the report itself, WHO representatives consistently noted that more research would be required to better understand the implications of their findings. WHO representatives stated that they will “begin looking at the public health implications of the latest science and the place of processed meat and red meat within the context of an overall healthy diet,” in the early part of next year. Until then, the wisest choice is still the same: eat a little less meat each week for your health and the health of the planet!