However, experts warn of the dangers of falling into alarmism and drawing hasty conclusions without taking into account all the specific facts of the study. “Meat is one of the main sources of animal protein for humans and it is the principal structural component of our cells. It is also a source of proteins and iron”, explains Pedro Robledo, of the Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Unit at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.
In addition, as the specialist points out, “cancer is a multifactor disease in which, beyond food, numerous factors play a role, such as genetics, the environment, alcohol consumption or smoking and even some infections”.
Accordingly, the monographic report published by the IARC does not state that meat possesses some potentially cancerous components prior to being cooked, but once processed for consumption by salting, smoking, fermentation, curing or cooking. This because when meat is heated to high temperatures in direct contact with a flame or hot surface, there is a reaction that generates chemical elements such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines.
“However, medical literature prior to the IARC report indicates that nitrosamines generate a factor in the colon that protects against foodborne toxico-infections like botulism”, points out Dr. Robledo.
Regarding the amount of meat we should consume, the IARC report considers more than 100 grams a day to be a risk factor, and estimates 18% of the population to be at risk of developing a tumor if that threshold is exceeded. For that reason, nutrition experts stress that the meat required by a healthy person should not exceed 15% of the our total calorie intake.
“The optimum daily intake of meat depends on each population, and is higher in the United States and lower in Africa and Asia.
Therefore, Nutritional Guidelines lay down criteria for recommended food consumption for determined populations with the aim being to prevent, with the food policy of each country playing a vital role”, concludes Pedro Robledo.