Thursday, April 05, 2007

Red meat seems to increase breast cancer risk -- but does it?

This seems to be a comparison of meat-eaters with vegetarians. That vegetarians suffer fewer adverse outcomes could be due to many factors -- reduced total calorie intake, greater care about lifestyle etc. Making meat consumption the cause rather than a marker goes beyond the evidence

EATING even small amounts of red meat can greatly increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, according to a study published today. Post-menopausal women who ate large amounts (more than 103 grams) of processed meat a day could be 64 per cent more likely to suffer the disease, while the researchers found as little as 57g of beef, pork or lamb a day showed an effect. Even younger women faced a slightly raised risk if they ate red meat every day, according to the study which appears in the British Journal of Cancer.

The study, led by Professor Janet Cade of the University of Leeds, involved studying the diets of 35,000 women aged between 35 and 69 for eight years. The research states: "Women, both pre and post-menopausal, who consumed the most meat had the highest risk of breast cancer. "Women generally consuming most total meat, red and processed meat were at the highest increased risk compared with non-meat consumers."

The women completed 217-item food questionnaires and were divided into three groups depending on whether they were low, medium or high meat-eaters. They were compared with women in the study who were vegetarian and researchers also took into account smoking, weight, fruit and vegetable intake, education, age and use of hormone replacement therapy.

Professor Cade told Britain's Daily Telegraph: "The findings are robust. Whatever we adjusted the data for we could find an association. "Really, these results could apply to all women. At home I have cut down on the amount of red meat we eat as a family a week. "I am not suggesting that everyone should become a vegetarian, that would be unrealistic, but the findings were strong and I think we should pay attention to them."

But the study was dismissed as "rubbish" by Sandy Crombie, chairman of the Scottish region of The Guild of Q Butchers, who pointed out that 56g of meat was roughly half a quarter-pound burger. He told the newspaper: "Two ounces (57g) is absolutely tiny. I have never heard such rubbish, it's a tiny amount. "This is ridiculous, it's silly, it's barely worth talking about."


Abstract from the British Journal of Cancer (2007) 96, 1139-1146 follows:

Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study

E F Taylor et al.

We performed a survival analysis to assess the effect of meat consumption and meat type on the risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study. Between 1995 and 1998 a cohort of 35 372 women was recruited, aged between 35 and 69 years with a wide range of dietary intakes, assessed by a 217-item food frequency questionnaire. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated using Cox regression adjusted for known confounders. High consumption of total meat compared with none was associated with premenopausal breast cancer, HR=1.20 (95% CI: 0.86-1.68), and high non-processed meat intake compared with none, HR=1.20 (95% CI: 0.86-1.68). Larger effect sizes were found in postmenopausal women for all meat types, with significant associations with total, processed and red meat consumption. Processed meat showed the strongest HR=1.64 (95% CI: 1.14-2.37) for high consumption compared with none. Women, both pre- and postmenopausal, who consumed the most meat had the highest risk of breast cancer.

Telling toxic tales about GM food

A Greenpeace-financed study claims GM corn is bad for us. Why did the media swallow it?

Another month, another GM-crop scare. `Monsanto Corn Allegedly Toxic,' read the headline in Red Herring. The Daily Mail faithfully parroted the Greenpeace scare-line that `GM corn "could cause liver and kidney damage".' But this story demonstrates nothing more than the ability of the anti-biotech campaigners at Greenpeace to manipulate the media. In turn, several media outlets have demonstrated their willingness to unquestioningly accept the agenda of a political pressure group when it fits in with their own long-running paranoia about what big business is doing to our food.

The concocted controversy is over the supposed dangers posed by a variety of biotech corn that has been safely grown in the US and Canada since 2003, and safely consumed for three years there, and Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Russia, the Philippines, and Mexico. The allegations (technically, they're more innuendo than specific allegation) are made in a peer-reviewed paper in the May issue of Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. But this is all old non-news.

European safety authorities approved the corn, called MON863, for import, feed, and processing in 2005 and again in 2006. Sold under the name YieldGard Rootworm, it reduces the need to spray insecticides with an organic-approved protein that is safe for fish, birds, mammals, and people.

Greenpeace didn't like the European approval, so they sued in order to get access to the data used to make those decisions. After getting the data, they paid a group of researchers at the University of Caen to `re-evaluate' it. Not surprisingly, given their near-religious opposition to agricultural biotechnology, the Greenpeace-paid group says the data show `signs of toxicity'. `Our counter-evaluation show that there are signs of toxicity and that nobody can say scientifically and seriously that consumption of the transgenic maize MON863 is safe and good for health,' lead author of the study, Professor Gilles Eric Seralini, told France's TF1 television station.

Sounds scary, right? But it's not. Even after applying an overly `sciency' thicket of statistical gimmickry, all that they show is that there is variation among rats - normal variation like you would find in any group of people. None of the findings are in any way alarming or out of the range of normal variability. As Andrew Apel at AgBioView notes: `In a nutshell, the Greenpeace-backed reinterpretation rests on data which show statistically significant differences in serum protein values or triglycerides mainly in rats fed low doses of MON863, but not in rats fed high doses of the corn. It's generally thought that the dose makes the poison, but in this case high doses showed no discernible effects. Does this truly reveal, as the title of the new paper suggests, "Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity?" The authors of the paper attempt to explain this by saying, cryptically, "This sex- and dose-related effect resulted in the fact that the growth variations of the 11 per cent GMO males are highly statistically lower [emphasis added] than their controls, and 33 per cent-GM-fed females higher."'

However you'd like to interpret that, it remains the case that scientists evaluating MON863 rat studies have consistently found the variations occurred randomly, were generally of small magnitude, and were within the normal range for laboratory rats. The fully-accountable food safety scientists of more than a dozen governments have approved this corn after exhaustive safety evaluation. These public servant-scientists have staked their jobs and reputations on the integrity and accuracy of their safety approvals. If something goes wrong, they will be the ones who will be called upon to explain their decisions.

Greenpeace wants us to ignore these dozens and dozens of expert scientists in favour of the self-serving `counter evaluation' of raw data by three scientists who claim to see `disturbed' livers and kidneys where dozens of others see only normal variation. The European Food Safety Authority has announced they will give the report a thorough read. Then I hope they will escort it, tout suite, into the `circular file', aka the bin!



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.