We are familiar with the term “Big Pharma” and understand it describes the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and in particular the way that it is thought to have excessive economic, political and social influence (sometimes with questionable ethics or restricted truthfulness). This concept has blindsided us to the burgeoning non-pharmaceutical “health” industry that has so successfully spruiked (promoted) vitamins, supplements and other unproven products, that we invest more in these without applying anything like the same level of critical appraisal (evaluation of evidence for effectiveness and side effects). We need to expose the truth behind “Big Snake Oil”.
There has been a buzz in the media following publication of a review of published evidence for dietary risk factors for colon cancer by the IARC of the WHO. Most health practitioners involved in management of colon cancer have been aware of the existing evidence for red meat as a significant risk factor for colon cancer, and the relative protective value of vegetarian and pesco-vegetarian (i.e. substituting fish for meat) diets. The IARC classification of processed and red meat as carcinogens has provoked emotional responses, but it is important to understand that the cancer-inducing effects are proportional rather than absolute, similar to many other known carcinogens (including tobacco, UV light, and alcohol), and also at a relatively low level of risk. From an individual perspective, we should all understand the potential risk of any behaviour, and we then can choose how to respond to the risk – for most, this will be “moderation” rather than abstinence.
There is some helpful information associated with the WHO IARC press release: Monographs-Q&A