Meat and testosterone (and cancer)

We saw that vegetarianism is not the best dietary choice if we want more testosterone. Saturated fat is a key component in a testosterone diet, because there is a positive relationship between saturated fat intake and healthy testosterone levels. And that means meat, one of the most criminalized foods today.

There is something about meat that raises testosterone, even some ovo-lacto-vegetarian diets (that add milk and eggs, and with them come some cholesterol and fats that help our cause) don’t make the cut, and they are not as effective raising testosterone as a meat eating diet is. Meat is still a key piece, you can learn more reading the works of Lou Schuler (“The Testosterone Advantage Plan”) or Jim Thorton in his article “Maximum Testosterone.” (Men’s Health. April, 2005).

But meat, specifically red meat (the kind of meat that we want most of the time) has made the rounds lately, and news are it again: processed meat causes cancer and red meat is probably carcinogenic too (although they fail, time and again finding a relationship between cancer and red meat).

The truth about meat and cancer

Most studies are trying to link red fresh meat with colon cancer, but they are not finding any statistically important evidence, in fact, there is contrary evidence and studies show that red meat has no correlation with cancer. So they cannot point the finger towards meat, but somehow they will keep trying for some reason that I cannot fully comprehend (money? Prejudice? I don’t know).

The thing is, processed meat, that it’s not recommended in the testosterone diet (although you can eat it here and there and no, you won’t die because of it), has been officially declared carcinogenic by the World Health Organization.

So am I going to get cancer if I eat processed meat? Well, not likely.

The thing with processed meat

Processed meat is now in the same list of carcinogenic substances as tobacco, and in the same list, by the way, you can find sun and air (I live in a city, so “my” air is listed). According to this, I should not breath, go outside, smoke or eat processed meat. Right? It makes for a barely decent joke, but that’s not the point.

The problem with this list is that The world health organization is really bad at communicating things. Here’s the thing: These classifications are based on strength of the evidence, not degree of risk.

I’ll explain. If something increases the probability of cancer by 0,1%, it will go to that list. But if something increases cancer rates by more than 2000% (tobacco, for example) it will go to the same list. So there are a lot of mixed things there.

Two risk factors could be slotted in the same category if one tripled the risk of cancer and the other increased it by a small fraction. They could also be classified similarly even if one causes many more types of cancers than the other, if it affects a greater swath of the population, and if it actually causes more cancers.

Taken crudely, the IARC’s report suggests that eating 50g of bacon every day would raise your risk from 64 in 100,000 to 72 in 100,000, or from 0.064% to 0.072%. Over a lifetime, your risk is about 5%, according to the NHS; so eating 50g of processed meat every day will raise that to about 6%.

For comparison, research on smoking and cancer found that men who smoked 25 cigarettes a day were 24 times higher risk of developing lung cancer, or a 2,400% increase. But yes, they are now in the same list.

Cancer is a statistical game, a constant rolling of dices. If you age enough, cancer will eventually appear. The game is reducing chances or taking risks that are worthy. Tobacco is not worthy, but sun, breathing and processed meat (that I repeat, the testosterone diet doesn’t even recommend, but it’s fine if you won’t make it the cornerstone of your meat consumption) can be a worthy risk because they bring much more advantages (i.e. nutrients) than not doing it.

For more information, this article from the Washington Post is quite good explaining some contrary positions.

The thing is, processed meat is not the best source of meat, in fact, the testosterone diet promotes non processed food in general, so better if you stick to fresh red meat and, if you find some good cold cuts or bacon (stay away from sausages, low fat processed meat and the like, they are pure garbage), by all means, eat it.

Even when the science behind that is not very strong, your chances of colon cancer won’t skyrocket, I can assure you that.