One in four Hongkongers eats more than twice too much red meat daily, survey finds

Yet over two thirds of the 1,013 respondents were aware of the cancer risk of consuming in excess of recommended intake

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2016, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2016, 10:56pm

Around a quarter of Hongkongers consume more than twice the amount of red meat that is recommended daily, a study has found, with experts warning of an increased risk of getting cancer.

The survey also revealed that Hongkongers’ average consumption of red meat during hotpot, barbecue or Korean grill is up to 3.7 times the recommended limit.

Dr Rico Liu King-yin, chairman of the cancer education subcommittee of the Anti-Cancer Society, said the group’s study of 1,013 Hongkongers through a self-reporting questionnaire found that 26 per cent of respondents reported eating more than 160g of red meat every day.

During hotpot, barbecue or Korean grill meals, the average consumption of red meat was 270.1g, while for processed meat it was 103.2g, he added.

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Citing figures from the American Institute for Cancer Research, Liu said no more than 510g per week was recommended for red meat, which comes to a daily limit of 73g – the size of two mahjong tiles. He urged avoiding all processed meat.

Liu, a specialist in clinical oncology, said red meat consumption was positively associated with colorectal cancer.

The risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17 per cent for each 100g portion of red meat eaten daily
Dr Rico Liu, Anti-Cancer Society

“Studies suggest the risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17 per cent for each 100g portion of red meat eaten daily,” he said.

For processed meat, there is a 10 per cent increased risk of colorectal cancer for each 30g consumed daily – about one sausage or one third a piece of luncheon meat.

Last year, the World Health Organisation classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans. The global authority said the consumption of processed meat was carcinogenic to humans.

In another finding from the local study, respondents consumed higher amounts of red meat than was recommended daily despite having good knowledge of factors that increase cancer risk.

For example, 68 per cent of the respondents were aware of an increased cancer risk arising from the intake of red meat, Liu said.

“I think this is in part due to a lot of people in Hong Kong having a habit of going out for meals, in which they cannot control the portion of food served,” he said.

The oncologist added there was a common misconception that there is no other preventive measure for cancers except regular check-ups and vaccination.

“Healthy eating can lower the risk of cancer by 30 to 40 per cent,” he said, citing an academic article.

But he said red meat need not be avoided entirely as it is rich in nutrients and that one should instead follow the recommended limits.

Official figures showed the number of new cancer cases in the city diagnosed in 2014 reaching a new record of 29,618, up 2.4 per cent from 2013.

Over the past decade, the number of new cancer cases in Hong Kong grew at an average annual rate of 2.8 per cent.