Red Meat & Health - What does the WHO say?

The World Health Organisation has now classified processed meats as carcinogenic, advising to reduce consumption for overall health. Unfortunately, mass media outlets are not reporting the findings correctly, which can lead to people shunning good quality red meat from their diet.


So, what does the report actually say?

The report, published in The Lancet, is very clear about the fact that red meat and processed meats are two very different food products and their effects on health are different as well. Red meat are foods such as beef, pork, lamb, goat, etc whereas processed meats are items such as hot dogs, sausages, and other canned / preserved meats.

With regards to red meat, the report says that observation studies (not clinical intervention trials, the gold standard method of nutrition science) show a “positive association” with developing cancer in humans. It does however go on to say that the evidence is limited, and that other explanations for this positive association may also be present. Unfortunately, due to the nature that studies investigating these other explanations would require, they would be unethical to perform on humans.

It is important to note that good quality reared red meat does have a place in a healthy, well designed, low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. Red meat provides the body with good quality bioavailable protein, essential fats, as well as a range of micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron and zinc.

When it comes to processed meats, the WHO report classifies them as carcinogenic. However, whilst tobacco is also classified as carcinogenic, they are not equally dangerous to health. Tobacco increases the risk of cancer 1,000+ %, whereas consuming processed meats increases the risk of cancer by 18%.

Real Food vs Processed Food

We all love food, so does that mean that foods such as sausages, bacon, chorizo, etc are bad? In this instance, reading the label will definitely help you make an informed decision. The food environment that we live in has unfortunately created food-like products sharing the same names and thereby creating more confusion.

Take the following example,  2 different brands of sausages, however can you really call both real foods?

A family favourite brand ingredients:

Pork (42%), Water, Pork Fat, Rusk (Wheat), Starch (Potato, Wheat), Vegetable Protein (Pea, Soya), Less than 2%: Salt, Yeast Extract, Flavourings, Stabilisers: Diphosphates, Guar Gum, Sodium Alginate, Antioxidants: E300 & E307, Preservative: Sodium Metabisulphite, Colour: Cochineal, Casing made from Beef Collagen

A top range sausage brand ingredients:

Outdoor Bred British Pork (97%), Potato Starch, Salt, Dried Herbs, White Pepper, Preservative (Sodium Metabisulphite), Nutmeg, Filled into natural sheep casings

Yes, both have ingredients other than simply pork meat, but one option is definitely better than the other - a higher meat content and much less preservatives and additives present.

Take Home Message

The intended outcome from the WHO advice is to make us more aware of the food environment that we live in. Most importantly, it is also there to help us make the best food choices that we can to improve and maintain our health.

If you would like to find out more about the report, the WHO has a Q&A page dedicated to help breakdown what their guidance is actually saying. This will help you make an informed decision about your food choices.

We at Natural Ketosis are here to help. So if you have any further questions or would like to know how your food choices can help you achieve your goals, then please do get in touch with us and we’ll be more than happy to help.  





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