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Choosing chicken over red meat could reduce the risk of breast cancer

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Posted September 2, 2019

Eating red meat, especially in large quantities, is not good for you. In fact, eating a lot of red meat has been associated with heart disease and cancer. Meanwhile chicken, according to this new international study, might actually reduce the risk of breast cancer. We say “might” because, regardless what you’ve read online, we don’t know yet.

Women who eat chicken instead of red meat, face a significantly lower risk of breast cancer. Image credit: Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels via Wikimedia

Scientists followed 42,000 women aged 35-74. 1,536 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among the participants of the study. Researchers analysed the diet of these people and found those who consumed the most red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, game meats) had a 23% higher risk of getting breast cancer. Meanwhile those who consumed the most poultry (lean chicken, turkey, duck, goose, quail and pheasant) had a 15% lower risk than those who consumed the least of this kind of meat. This should mean that eating more chicken reduces your likelihood of developing breast cancer, right? Well, no.

Neither of the groups chose one or another meat to base their diet on. All people ate a little bit of both. This means that when they were eating chicken, they were not eating red meat. In other words, we don’t know causal relations – it could be that red meat increases the risk of cancer and those who ate more poultry simply ate less of the red meat. Furthermore, the study didn’t identify anyone who avoided all meat, so we don’t know what effects would a vegetarian diet have.

People who consumed the least amount of red meat (no more than 340g of red meat a week, which is about two portions) had the smallest chances of being diagnosed with cancer. Meanwhile a weekly consumption of 775g or more lead to the highest risk of breast cancer. This further emphasizes the effects of eating in moderation. Some red meat per week can boost your immune system, provide the necessary iron, protein and vitamin B12. Too much of it can cause health problems.

That is important to note. This study didn’t prove that chicken has any protective effects against breast cancer. It is just that we know that red meat does elevate the risk of the disease and choosing chicken typically means eating less beef, pork, lamb and other meat like that. Further studies are going to be needed to see if reduction of cancer risk can be regarded as one of the benefits of chicken.

But for you it is already great news. Walk past the beef and pork when you shop and head straight to the chicken. You will feel better and be healthier and that matters the most.

 

Source: UNSW

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