The World Health Organization (WHO) released a bulletin this week categorizing processed meats like bacon, lunch meats, and sausages as cancer-causing. Processed meats are meats that are preserved through smoking, curing, or added chemical preservatives. These meats are often cooked with high heat, enhancing their carcinogenic effect. The WHO also categorized red meat as a cancer-promoting food.

Interestingly, the Edgar Cayce health readings (given from 1905-1944) recommended eating only small amounts of meat and avoiding all foods with preservatives. The Cayce diet, similar to the Mediterranean diet, emphasized fresh vegetables, nuts, beans, and fruits, along with cultured dairy products and healthy oils such as olive oil. Cayce stated that 80% of our diet should come from these categories; the remaining 20% may include whole grains, fish or fowl, and the occasional (preferably honey-sweetened) treat. The Cayce health readings recommended similar moderation with alcohol consumption, another WHO-labeled cancer-causing agent.

The studies that spurred the WHO bulletin tracked people who consumed these processed meats on a daily basis. The WHO, like the Cayce readings, did not advocate that everyone become a vegetarian, rather that those who do enjoy meat eat processed meat and red meat sparingly. Lean protein sources like poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy are good alternatives.

Diet is just one factor in preventing cancer. The most important lifestyle change any of us can make to prevent cancer is to quit smoking. A healthy diet and regular exercise, recommended by the Edgar Cayce readings 100 years ago and echoed by current medical research, are the next most important factors in decreasing cancer risk. Both the Cayce readings and the WHO empower us to optimize our health.