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Does Meat Really Cause Cancer?


There’s lots of freaky discussion going on now about a recent study (publicized in the Washington Post) that claims that “the chicken wing that you’re eating could be as deadly as a cigarette.”

Naturally, many people are freaking out about whether or not meat is bad for them.

(Actually, this is a classic example of A. bias in the study B. and media manipulation.)

So in this study, researchers broke subjects into three groups based on their protein intake (either low – less than 10%, medium – 10-19% or high – 20% ).

They claimed:

  • Protein-lovers were 74 percent more likely to die of any cause within the study period than their more low-protein counterparts. They were also several times more likely to die of diabetes.
  • People who ate a moderate amount of protein were  three times more likely to die of cancer than those who ate a low-protein diet in middle age
  • When the percent calories from animal protein was controlled for, the association between total protein and all-cause or cancer mortality was eliminated or significantly reduced, respectively, suggesting animal proteins are responsible for a significant portion of these relationships
  • The researchers also extended their findings about high-protein diets and mortality risk, looking at causality in mice and cellular models. In a study of tumor rates and progression among mice, the researchers show lower cancer incidence and 45 percent smaller average tumor size among mice on a low-protein diet than those on a high-protein diet by the end of the two-month experiment.

Note: this was for middle aged people, and ironically enough, right after they said “while high protein intake during middle age is very harmful, it is protective for older adults: those over 65 who ate a moderate- or high-protein diet were less susceptible to disease.”

Is This Really True?

So the researcher saw a link between the amount of protein consumed, and cancer / diabetes / death risk.

But do we know what kind of protein? E.g. was it grass fed beef, or McDonald’s grade D beef patties?

Was this protein fried, or was it served some other way?

What kind of people usually eat a high protein diet – do they typically have an unhealthy diet, watch TV all day, not exercise, and not take care of themselves?

Typically in the US, the people eating the most meat are generally also eating the most refined carbs like white flour, sugar, smoke, living unhealthy lifestyles, and are not health oriented.

Another researcher brought up an excellent point. The people that did the study claimed that plant protein was “preferential” to prevent this effect, but look at the chart of tumor growth:

Soy ChartSource

He went on and mentioned that “Soy protein elevated the effect almost just as much as the casein protein…” Oh, and this type of high protein consumption was tested on mice, which aren’t exactly naturally carnivores.

So really what you’re seeing is researchers making assumptions based on the link they want to see (more on that later).

But is it really true?

What About the Eskimo?

There have been lots of strongly pro-vegan people demonizing meat lately, claiming it causes cancer, diabetes, death, etc.

But for those of you that don’t know, I want to point out a really interesting phenomenon:

Take a look at the Inuit, you know these fine ladies and gents (the Eskimo):


There’s an old book called Cancer, Disease of Civilization, written by a guy named Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

Stefansson was an arctic explorer, one of the ones who went in “search of cancer” among the Eskimo. Now what’s interesting about the Eskimo is that their diet is primarily fat – it’s almost 100% meat, animals, and fat.

The physicians that went exploring and living with these tribes (some for several decades) noticed that they didn’t suffer from many of the problems that westerners do – like diabetes, cancer, weight issues, etc. Apparently, once the word reached Europe in the mid 1800s that the Inuit didn’t show signs of cancer, some specific doctors decided to mount an expedition.

Another researcher talks a bit more about what happened:

One of these physicians was captain George B. Leavitt. He actively searched for cancer among the traditionally-living Inuit from 1885 to 1907. Along with his staff, he claims to have performed tens of thousands of examinations. He did not find a single case of cancer. At the same time, he was regularly diagnosing cancers among the crews of whaling ships and other Westernized populations.

So, no cancer, even though they ate an almost 100% fat and animal protein diet.

Who else?

Oh yeah, there’s the Masai in Africa, who despite eating a very high in fat diet,  only 3% of the people over 18 have high blood pressure and the other health issues that many people in the west suffer from.

(In America, it’s 31%.  1 in 3 Americans).

So there are indigenous populations eating all kinds of diets, without the major health problems we have – there are 99% meat eaters, 90% carb eaters, and everything in between. All apparently doing a lot better than we are.

And One Other Sketchy Fact…

Another researcher did a teardown of this study and found that the final (lead) author (Victor Longo), has equity in a company known as L-Nutra, which develops medical food.

Guess who’s the founder of the company?

Yep, Victor Longo himself.

And can you guess what specifically the company is about?

Specific formulas that involve: “mostly organically grown and plant-based food.”

… Sounds fishy, right? ;)

So it might “make sense” that a pro-plant based food author, might want to see results demonizing animal protein.

The Real Problem Here

Now just imagine reading health news 20 or 30 times a week, can you see how this might lead you down a deep rabbit hole of despair?

It’s not really surprising that people are insanely confused when it comes to “what to eat.”

Here’s my advice: At the end of the day, just focus on eating real food.

If you are stressed, overwhelmed, overweight, sick and need to improve your health now, just get started shifting to eating more real foods. And yes, that includes animal protein.

That means cooking your food instead of eating out.

That means cooking food that is fresh – food that expires after a week.

That means not eating food that comes in a box.

That means focusing on animals, plants, and whole foods that come from some process you can describe to a kid.

Following me?

That’s how you get started (and not by reading headlines that “chicken wings are as bad for you as smoking”).

- Alex

P.S. If you want to know what exactly you should be eating to lose weight, reverse diabetes and high blood pressure, even fix chronic pain, check out the videos here.


Eggs: Freedigitalphotos.net

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7 comments… add one

  1. Thanks Alex! Great article.
    Have any info on autoimmune diseases and their relation to gluten? A family member was just diagnosed and lupus and another autoimmune disease and we are discovering that gluten and even dairy are linked to autoimmune diseases.

    1. Cheers Gabe,

      I don’t yet – but I’ll have to investigate that in the future!

  2. Hi Alex,

    I am so glad you addressed this! I was reading the article and knew that it wasn’t good science but I had yet to hear anyone refute the findings. Thank you for helping to put my mind at ease… Now, if you could help me figure out how to enjoy my sardine and avocado sandwiches without the bread (at least it is Ezekiel) I would be forever grateful!

    1. Hey Sarah,

      I wouldn’t worry about just the bread too much. I personally don’t eat very low carb – it’s lower than normal, but not restrictive low carb. If that’s all the bread you eat all day, I wouldn’t worry about it so much .

  3. Thanks for a teardown of this incomplete study! I was really pleased to see it because a couple of days ago my sister sent it to me, and I tried to explain to her why it’s flawed, but you did it so much better with this blog post! I’ve just forwarded it to her. I know it’s so useful for someone who’s new to the Paleo diet and is constantly bombarded not only by the media but also by friends and family who say they can’t eat so much meat, they will get cancer, etc. I guess the only way to remain sane is to read the arguments of all the different sides, decide which one you’re going to be on and take a leap of faith. Then never read mainstream articles again. Don’t you think?

    1. Hey Vita,

      Yeah it can get tricky. I’m not a researcher, so I RARELY try to jump into research (there are way more qualified people than me) – I try to focus on getting people to APPLY this stuff and make it happen in their lives.

      BUT, this one spread like wildfire around the internet and I was tired of seeing friends post this misinformation online. So I also made sure to cite 2-3 other researchers that did fantastic breakdowns of the study itself – they need more people to see the inherent bias (And flaws) in the study itself.

      “I guess the only way to remain sane is to read the arguments of all the different sides, decide which one you’re going to be on and take a leap of faith. Then never read mainstream articles again. Don’t you think?”

      I’d say this is a pretty good start, definitely. It’s tough because everyone has an agenda – even people that try to remain objective.

      But I think as a great start – if you’re eating *natural* food, with as minimal processing, packaging, etc. whether that means meat-eater or veggie, you’ll live a hell of a lot longer (with minimal disease). That’s the basic premise I work with.

  4. One of the really, really annoying things over the last 20 years is that “science” has moved from making real, proper studies to doing primarily statistics studies or meta-studies. In short, there is virtually nothing objective about any of these studies as they are all designed to reach a certain result – very few of them have no financial interest whatsoever…
    Science has become populist and highly damaging and nobody is doing anything about because they all have invested interest in the status quo continuing. And with the internet any piece of information can be spread like wildfire in a few days…. which goes to show that our educational level is way, way too low…. if we are that easy to trick into believing and spreading these things it just goes to show that we are all tooo stupid…. ;-)


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