Like most of us, I enjoy munching on a nice, juicy cheeseburger. Over the years however, I have reduced my red meat consumption. Yes, I am in a constant battle to reduce my waist size as well and cutting down on the calorie heavy cheeseburgers helps. And of course the lipids come down without the cheese and red meat. What has caught my interest is the greater risk of certain cancers, especially of the colon and rectum, that might be associated with red meat consumption.

Red meat and processed meats (hot dogs, bologna, sausages, ham, lunch meat and my favorite pastrami) have been associated with increased risk of colon cancers as well as several other cancers including bladder, lung, kidney and prostate. No one really knows why this is and when it’s unclear of course many explanations are proposed.

Could it be the excess protein, fat or iron contained within the meat? What about the high heat-could that be creating some carcinogens? Other studies have pointed toward reduced life span.

Yet these findings should at the very least be taken with a grain of salt. Red meat eaters might not be as healthy as say vegetarians and other bad health habits such as lack of exercise, obesity and poor diet choices might have caused the cancers and shortened life span. The research is observational-you simply cannot do a double blind study. This would require neither the study participant nor the investigator knowing whether meat or a meat substitute were consumed. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can tell whether I’m eating meat or some soy substitute vegan product. Finally, most of the published studies were six years or less, which means that maybe not enough time had elapsed to make valid conclusions.

For now, I think a reasonable option would be to reduce the amount of times you have red meat to perhaps once or twice a week, cut out or cut down processed foods (OMG that includes pastrami!) and keep up the veggies and fruits.