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Children who regularly consume processed meat may have a heightened risk of developing leukemia, while those who eat a plant-based diet that contains soy products decrease their risk of developing the disease, studies find.

The findings come from numerous studies. The results of a study conducted in 2009 and published by the online journal BMC Cancer researched the diets and diseases of 515 Taiwanese primary school and teenage children. It found that the children who regularly ate cured meat and fish more than once a week had a 74 percent greater chance of developing acute leukemia. The children who rarely ate cured meat and fish with a diet focused on vegetables and soy products had just half the chance of developing acute leukemia as meat-eaters. The results suggest a connection between animals in the human diet and leukemia but research has yet to pinpoint the exact reason why.

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Other research suggests that the precursor to cancer is nitrites added to meat during the curing process. Cured meats are processed by adding preservatives and flavorings such as sugar, salt, and chemical compounds; these create the opportunity for the development of nitrosamines, which have been noted as a compound with a strong correlation to cancer.

Dr. David C. Christiani of the Harvard School, one of the lead researchers in the leukemia study, told the website Reuters Health that he and his colleagues recommend children do not consume large amounts of cured meat and fish so as to best prevent the disease developing.

The leukemia study is one of many research efforts that suggest humans should reduce intake of meat and other animal products in order to reduce the risk of developing acute and chronic diseases. A recent study published by the World Cancer Research Fund found that reducing consumption of red meat, processed meats, and dairy can drastically reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. These findings are echoed by more studies that say eating red meat is linked to an increased chance of distal cancer in women and that processed meat is linked to colorectal cancer. Conversely, a vegan diet is linked with greater breast cancer treatment results, and some people following the diet have been able to produce red blood cells that are more effective at combating cancer than the cells in people who eat meat.


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