...but no need to overreact

Following the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) evaluation linking red and processed meat with cancer, some consumers may decide to completely eliminate meat from their diet ("Processed meat causes colon cancer, says WHO agency"; Tuesday).

However, that seems unwise and would be a response that the WHO had not intended.

It said that "eating meat has known health benefits", but that people should "limit intake of processed meat and red meat" because of the increased risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

The WHO's evaluation does not support people becoming vegetarians, as it has acknowledged that its evaluation "did not directly compare health risks in vegetarians and people who eat meat".

Nor does it support people eating only poultry and fish, as the cancer risks associated with the consumption of poultry and fish were not evaluated by the WHO.

Overall, only a summary of the evaluation by the WHO is available in the public domain and a detailed assessment has yet to be published.

That said, until experts all over the globe have had the opportunity to review the detailed assessment, thoroughly debate it, and eventually publish their consensus recommendation, for the time being, it seems best for the public to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that includes meat, and to not overreact to the news.

Chan Yeow Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline '...but no need to overreact'. Print Edition | Subscribe