Meat alert for kidneys

The results of the largest investigation of meat intake and kidney cancer suggest that consumption of meat, and red meat in particular, encourages cancer development and growth. One of the potential mechanisms is the formation of dangerous compounds in meat during the cooking process  (eg heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and the content of cancer causing preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites (which prolong the shelf-life of meat and ensure the bright red colour). The other mechanism seems to be tied to the specific form of iron found in meat - heme iron.  The kidney is one of the main organs targeted by iron metabolism, and meat is a key source of heme iron—an agent involved in promoting cancer. On the other hand, iron found in plant based foods (eg beans, lentils, peas, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, dried apricots, prunes and figs), is a non-heme iron and therefore doesn’t cause any such problems. The study included  492,186 participants and lasted over nine years.

Daniel C.R. et al., 2012. Large prospective investigation of meat intake, related mutagens, and risk of renal cell carcinoma. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 95 (1) 155-162.