The link between cancer and animal meat has been a topic of extensive scientific research. However, research around vegan meat and cancer prevention has been much less readily available. That will soon change thanks to a partnership between The American Cancer Society (ACS) and vegan company Beyond Meat. 

The historic partnership will build upon existing research around vegan meat and expand the body of research around the topic of cancer prevention. This multi-year partnership has the potential to help consumers make more informed choices about dietary patterns that optimize their health.

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“We are honored to enter this agreement with the American Cancer Society, a leading authority on cancer research,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said in a statement. “One of our core goals at Beyond Meat is to positively impact human health—and we’re committed to taking action by supporting trusted, scientific and evidence-based research on the benefits of shifting the protein at the center of the plate from animal-based meat to plant-based meat.” 

Meat consumption and cancer

Back in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs as carcinogens. This decision was informed by research conducted by 22 scientists from 10 countries who analyzed 800 studies on the topic of cancer and meat consumption. Researchers found that every 1.8 ounces of processed meat consumed daily increases the chance of colon cancer by 18 percent.

This research has been further supported by additional studies that looked at the relationship between meat consumption and other types of cancer. For instance, in 2018, researchers from the University of Glasgow analyzed the dietary patterns of more than 270,000 British women between the ages of 40 and 69. 

The findings here found that post-menopausal women who consumed more than nine grams of processed meat per week upped their chances of developing breast cancer by 20 percent. 

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Under the new partnership, Beyond Meat and ACS will work together for multiple years to advance research around plant-based meat and cancer prevention. The agreement will support ACS’ ongoing data collection in its Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) and build a research portfolio on the topic of plant-based proteins based on its pool of 300,000 participants.

“American Cancer Society guidelines have long recommended a diet rich in plant foods with limited intake of processed and red meat,” William L. Dahut, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at ACS, said in a statement. 

“While short-term research studies have shown that switching to plant-based meat improves risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol levels and body weight, research in this area is still in its early stages, particularly in relation to cancer,” Dahut said. 

Health benefits of vegan meat

Researchers have already begun looking into the health benefits of swapping animal meat for plant-based alternatives. In 2020, Beyond Meat’s vegan meat products were part of the aptly named SWAP-MEAT study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. 

Published in the scientific journal American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this eight-week study assessed various health metrics of 36 participants who received plant and animal products in two phases. The findings? Levels of LDL cholesterol dropped on average 10 milligrams per deciliter, which is both statistically and clinically significant, in participants who transitioned from animal meat to plant-based meat protein sources. 

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Furthermore, when eating plant-based meats, participants improved cardiovascular disease risk factors such as Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels. They also lost an average of two pounds during the plant-based portion of the study. 

While Beyond Meat donated its products and provided funding for the SWAP-MEAT study—the first clinical trial of its products—the company was not involved in designing or conducting the study and did not participate in data analysis. Last year, the brand also established the Plant-Based Diet Initiative Fund at the Stanford University School of Medicine to accelerate research that will help drive innovation in the plant-based meat space. 

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Together with its new partnership with ACS, the body of scientific research around plant-based meat will soon boom, helping consumers make more informed dietary decisions. 

“Beyond Meat and the American Cancer Society’s agreement is a critical step forward in conducting studies on cancer and plant-based meat in diets—a research area that has historically been lacking and builds upon the foundational research we’re doing as part of the Plant-Based Diet Initiative at the Stanford University School of Medicine,” Christopher Gardner, PhD, Director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center said in a statement.

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