Report on links between processed meat, red meat and cancer exaggerated

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) looking at links between processed meat, red meat and cancer has been widely reported in the media over recent days.

Many of the media stories suggest that people who eat processed meat and red meat are just as likely as smokers to develop cancer as a result, however this is an exaggeration of what the report has found and health experts such as the British Nutrition Foundation say that these stories are ‘highly misleading’.

The official press release from the WHO states that while processed meat has been classed as ‘Group 1’, meaning that there is now sufficient evidence that it can cause colorectal cancer in humans, the risk remains relatively small. Though not as strong, there is also some evidence that excessive red meat consumption could probably cause cancer in some cases, though again the risk is small.

These findings are in line with World Cancer Research Fund findings from 2011 and latest Government guidance.

Professor Tim Key from our charity partner Cancer Research UK has reassured people that the decision doesn’t mean people need to stop eating red and processed meat and smoking remains by far the biggest risk to health, while the British Nutrition Foundation also reminds people that red meat is a good source of protein, iron and zinc and that other lifestyle choices that have been strongly linked to reducing cancer risk such as losing weight, taking more exercise, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol consumption also need to be considered.

Slimming World’s advice that members can enjoy lean and processed meat as part of an overall healthy diet doesn’t need to change. Our Food Optimising book recommends that members choose high-protein alternatives to red meat such as fish, poultry and pulses as often as they choose red meat in order to meet Department of Health guidelines which suggest that people have no more than 500g of meat each week and we will continue to advise this.

Other factors like obesity, smoking and physical inactivity remain a far greater risk factor for many cancers than red or processed meat consumption and by helping people to lose weight, get more active, eat more fruit and vegetables and choose lean cuts of meat (fatty food is another risk factor) as well as enjoy a variety of different types of meat, including fish and poultry, Slimming World helps members to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

We will continue to monitor developments in this area and Department of Health guidance on healthy eating. If any recommendations change we will incorporate this into our advice to members.

Notes to Editors

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 groups held weekly across the UK and Republic of Ireland via a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.

Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and a recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.

For the Press Office please email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk