Atkins Distorts Data Presented at a Conference
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Atkins Distorts Data Presented at a Conference
One of the questions addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions section of your website is "Doesn't a high-fat diet increase cancer risk?" In your answer, you argue that there is no link between meat and colon cancer, and base your argument solely on preliminary, unpublished data from a single investigation described at a meeting that took place years ago.[938] Further, even that data was distorted.

The meeting was the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer back in 2001, where the preliminary findings of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) were presented. You claim that the findings "raised questions about the long-held belief that eating red meat or other animal-based foods can increase the risk of cancer."[939]

We decided to look at the official account of that conference published by the World Health Organization in order to respond to your claims.[940]

Dr. Atkins said that "The European conference that studied the lifestyles of more than 500,000 individuals confirmed that there is not link [sic] between meat consumption and increased risk of colon and rectal cancer."[941] To clarify, it was not more than 500,000 people, it was 472,000. More importantly, though, this is what the researchers actually said: "The meat-colorectal cancer association has been investigated by at least 34 case-control and 14 cohort studies, which collected information on various types of meat products. The overall results suggest that frequent consumption of red meat, mainly beef, veal, pork and lamb, is associated with a 20-40% increase in colorectal cancer risk..."[942]

True, the increase in colorectal cancer risk associated with red meat in the "very preliminary"[943] data from the EPIC study were "for the moment" not statistically significant, but as the investigators note, "As the follow-up is in progress, these first results should be interpreted with caution."[944] This is what Atkins claimed "confirmed" that there was no link even though the very source he cited mentions almost 50 studies whose "overall results" show that there is a link. Therefore, the source you cite to support your claim, in fact, refutes it.

According to the study's coordinator, chief of the nutrition division at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, those eating just 2 ounces of processed meat (like bacon or ham) a day had 50% greater risk of developing cancer of the colon or rectum.[945] Two ounces is just one jumbo hot dog.[946]

An independent review given at that same conference concluded "High intake of red meat, and particularly of processed meat, are associated with a moderate but significant increase in colorectal cancer risk and suggest that colorectal cancer incidence could be decreased by reducing red and processed meat intakes in populations where intake is high."[947] This is in agreement with 2004 review published by one of the lead EPIC study investigators.[948]

Other independent research provided at the conference that you argue challenges the "long-held misconceptions about... animal products" found that those eating more than just 5.5 grams of fatty red meat a day (roughly a single teaspoon of ground beef)[949] seemed to have over twice the risk of developing colon or rectal cancer.[950] In an article entitled "Red meat could be as carcinogenic as tobacco," Associated Press writer Emma Ross noted that new research presented at the conference indicated that eating red meat could raise the level of certain colon carcinogens as much as smoking does.[951]

According to the official account, what the EPIC study did show was that fruit consumption seemed to significantly protect against colon and rectal cancer[952] and the more fiber people ate, the lower their risk. Those eating just 25 grams of fiber a day seemed to cut their risk by about 40%.[953]

Atkins, on the other hand, once called fruit "poison."[540] Fruit consumption alone, however, seems to protect one from numerous cancers[954] and may reduce heart disease mortality, cancer, and total mortality.[955] Even during later, more liberal phases of the diet, Atkins warned readers that eating fruit will "always" be "somewhat risky,"[956] when, in fact, the reverse may be true.
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Atkins Facts:
> What the Experts Think of Atkins
> Faulty Science
> Short-Term Side Effects
> All Long-Term Studies on Atkins a Wash
> Long-Term Side Effects
> The Safer Alternative
> References 1-1160

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