Limit red meat in diet, warn experts

Eating too much red and processed meat increases bowel cancer risk


Be careful not to use too much red meat in family meals, Government advisors have warned.


It’s suggested that adults should eat no more than 70g of red meat per day, roughly equivalent to two slices of roast beef, one lamb chop or 3 slices of ham per day. Remember, this is for adults, so you may want to base children’s intake on smaller portions.

The recommendations have been published by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) after concerns about bowel cancer.

However, it’s another example of conflicting scientific evidence. Only a week ago, a British Nutrition Foundation study found that the majority of adults ate healthy amounts of red meat and that there was an ‘inconclusive’ link to cancer.

Now, the advice from the Government is to watch how much red meat we’re eating, and to cut back if it’s over 70g per day.

“Following simple diet and liefstyle advice can help protect against cancer,” says interim chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

“Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet. It is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins. But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down.”

There is more agreement over concern about processed meats, such as sausages and smoked or cured ham. Several recent studies have advised severely limiting the amount of processed meat you should have in your diet.

In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) produced a recent report that advised avoiding it altogether.

“Our report made the distinction between red and processed meat,” explained Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for WCRF. “We recommend that while people should limit intake of red meat, they should avoid processed meat.”


It’s estimated that for the average British adult, the risk of bowel cancer over a lifetime is around 5%. If you eat an extra 50g of processed meat on top, it rises to 6%.

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