Cancer expert: plant-based alternatives may be “massively processed food”

A top cancer specialist has warned that a “balanced diet is key” and many of the plant-based alternatives on offer are “massively processed food”.

Professor Karol Sikora, a leading oncologist, said that consumers shouldn’t assume that a meat-free diet “immediately equals good for you”.

Dr Sikora was Clinical Director for Cancer Services at Hammersmith, Charing Cross and St Mary’s Hospitals in the  UK for nearly 20 years, and also led a one of the World Health Organisation’s cancer programmes.

“I see these advertisements for ‘plant-based’ alternatives absolutely everywhere,” he tweeted. “Fine, but we shouldn’t pretend like many of them aren’t massively processed food.”

“No meat doesn’t immediately equal good for you.  A balanced diet is key.”

While plant-based alternatives are being advertised as healthy alternatives that will also help to reduce carbon emissions, some experts have warned against the assumption that it is always the healthier option.

“Obviously the pros are that [veganism] is getting people to think about plant-based foods, but the con is that it makes us think that it is good for you when it can be equally or more unhealthy,” Megan Rossi, a dietician at King’s College London and author of Eat Yourself Healthy, told BBC.

Dr Sikora has also criticised claims that red meat itself can cause cancer.

“Whilst vegetables and fruit contain protective factors, there is almost no evidence that red meat itself actually causes cancer,” he said.

He claimed that the World Research Cancer Fund seemed “to be following an anti-meat crusade writing their conclusion first and then looking for supportive evidence.”

“This is extremely misleading for the public who are thoroughly confused by being bombarded with mixed messages. If there is no clear conclusion then definitive recommendations should be avoided,” he said.

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