Meat and dairy products are taking another hit based on a new research report directed by the National Cancer Institute. The report links eating meat, especially red meat such as beef, with certain cancers. Colon cancer is the one most strongly linked to a meat-rich diet.

Researchers studying people living in Nebraska found that those who ate the most meat had 3.6 times the risk of esophageal cancer and double the risk of stomach cancer when compared to people eating what the researchers considered a “healthy diet”.

In addition, people that had a diet heavy in both dairy and meat products had double the risk of both cancers, the researchers report in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, Tufts University in Boston and elsewhere surveyed 124 people with stomach cancer, 124 people with esophageal cancer and 449 people who did not have cancer. They asked detailed questions about their eating habits, then characterized their diets as being ``healthy,' ``high meat,' 'high milk,' high in salty snacks, heavy on desserts and heavy on white bread.

The designated “healthy diet” had the highest amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In general, it matched the government recommendations that people eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, up to 10 servings of grains, breads and pasta, and just two to three small servings of meat. Plus, the healthy eating group (21 percent) usually ate the fewest calories.

The high-meat dietary pattern included a much higher intake of meats and much lower intake of fruits, bread and cereals. In all, researchers reported that 33 percent of stomach cancer patients and 35 percent of esophageal cancer patients ate either the high-meat or high-milk diets.

Keep in mind this is only one survey. In general, the healthiest diets contain a balance of all food groups, including meat and dairy products.