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RESEARCHERS DISCOVER SUGAR MOLECULE IN RED MEAT THAT CAUSES CANCER

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends limiting read meat consumption to 500 g per week based on evidence of increased bowel cancer risk. Although this risk assessment is based on concrete evidence from scientific  studies, the evidence is only circumstantial.

In a new study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine have linked a sugar molecule, Neu5Gc, to the consumption of red meat and cancer. More than a decade ago it was hypothesized that Neu5Gc could be linked to cancers, because it was found to be highly bio-available and was even found accumulated in some cancers. This unique sugar molecule is synthesized in other mammals, but not in humans, although the human body readily absorbs it and strangely also has antibodies against it (probably because humans incorporate red meat/dairy products in their diets).

The study showed that feeding mice that lack Neu5Gc caused cancer growth. The mice were not exposed to other carcinogens, showing a clear connection of red meat consumption with cancer. The food items with the highest concentration of Neu5Gc were found to be lamb, pork and beef, establishing the fact that red meat is the main source of this sugar molecule.

The leading hypothesis is that Neu5Gc accumulates in body tissues causing chronic inflammation, which in turn increases risk of cancerous growth. "The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by. But on a more general note, this work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes," said Ajit Varki, M.D., principal investigator for the study.

20.01.2015

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