Cancer Society: Back off the red meat, alcohol
September 17, 1996
Web posted at: 12:045 p.m. EDT
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The American Cancer Society drew the ire of
meat and alcohol industry officials Monday when it released
guidelines calling for reduction in meat and alcohol intake
to lower the risk of cancer.
The New York Times reported that the society made four
recommendations, similar to those issued by federal
government agencies, but more specific and more strict.
The guidelines recommend:
- A diet high in fruits, vegetables and
whole grains, but low in high-fat foods, especially those
containing animal fats.
- Maintenance of a healthy weight and
- Limited or no alcohol intake.
Governmental guidelines recommend eating leaner cuts of meat,
but the society's guidelines call for a curtailment of all
red meat consumption -- not just higher-in-fat cuts.
"We're not saying cut out meat altogether," said Mary
O'Connell, the society's nutrition director. "We're saying
when you eat meat, select lean cuts. You might want to choose
smaller portions ... you might want to think of meat as a
side dish instead of the main dish."
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O'Connell also suggested beans, poultry and seafood as
replacements for red meat.
But Janet Williams, a spokesperson for the American Meat
Institute, said guidelines go too far when they begin to
dictate food choices.
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"Meat is there, and it's there for a good reason
nutritionally," she said. "So to indict meat as the one
source of fat that should be limited or reduced is probably
inappropriate in a mixed diet."
Williams also complained that the society's recommendations
not consistent with federal dietary guidelines. But Dr. Meir
Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the
Harvard School of Public Health, told The New York Times that
the society, without the pressures of lobbying groups, could
better make decisions based on scientific research.
In making its recommendations about limiting the use of
alcohol, the society did acknowledge recent studies showing
that a moderate intake of alcohol could decrease the risk of
heart disease. Men over 50 and women over 60, the report
said, my find that the "cardiovascular benefits may outweigh
the risk of cancer."
Federal guidelines say flatly that "one or two drinks daily
appear to cause no harm to adults." The society report said
that "cancer risk increases with the amount of alcohol
consumed and may start to rise with intake of as few as two
drinks a day."
John De Luca, president of the Wine Institute, complained
that wine should not be included with other alcoholic
beverages, and noted that some studies have shown moderate
wine consumption could reduce the risk of breast cancer.
But Stampfer said the guidelines made sense as they are. "We
know lots of ways of reducing the risk of heart disease
without alcohol," he said. "For sub-groups at high risk for
breast cancer, why drink?"
The report also concluded that artificial sweeteners, coffee,
fluorides, irradiated foods, food additives and food
substitutes do not create an increased risk in cancer, with
Nitrites can be converted into carcinogens in the stomach,
and olestra, the fat substitute produced by Procter & Gamble,
is described as worrisome. The society is concerned that the
product reduces absorption of some fat soluble substances
that may be beneficial.
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