Researchers from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have published a report stating that red meat may elevate the risk of cancer because of a sugar molecule called Neu5Gc, a non-human sialic acid N-glycolylneuraminic acid, which is described as “unnatural to human biology”.
This study was funded by the Ellison Medical Foundation (EMF) , the National Cancer Institute (NIH), the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Neu5Gc imbeds itself into human tissue when the person consumes beef, pork, lamb or bison.
During the study “the team engineered mice to mimic humans in that they lacked their own Neu5Gc and produced antibodies against it. When these mice were fed Neu5Gc, they developed systemic inflammation. Spontaneous tumor formation increased fivefold and Neu5Gc accumulated in the tumors.”
The human immune system attacks the sugar molecule which creates tissue inflammation and is connected to a rise in long-term cancer risk.
According to the research, Neu5Gc may be transferred when drinking whole milk and consuming “certain cheeses and fish eggs”.
Ajit Varki, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UCSD and lead author of the study, explained: “In this case, the foreign sugar is like a Trojan Horse. It becomes part of your own cells. When you react to a peanut or other allergy-causing substance, you’re reacting to something foreign. This is the first example we know of something that’s foreign, gets totally incorporated into you despite the fact that your immune system recognizes it.”
Varki described Neu5Gc as having the role of “gasoline on the fire” because it “boosts the cancer risk” yet does not “seem to be the ultimate cause of the disease.”
It was suggested that “lean red meat’s nutritional benefits — it’s a rich source of iron, for instance — may outweigh the cancer risks for people younger than 30 or 40. After that age threshold, the harmful effects tend to predominate. But large amounts of Neu5Gc would be harmful at any age.”
Previous work Varki published on Neu5Gc show that “human beings are the only animals (including our close relatives chimpanzees and other primates) not to produce Neu5Gc (N-glycolylneuraminic acid), a sialic acid which plays an important role in our bodies to regulate our immune responses. Instead, we have a very similar molecule called Neu5Ac. When we eat meat and milk, the Neu5Gc becomes absorbed in to our tissues and our bodies react to it as a foreign object. Tests have revealed that many people carry antibodies that react to Neu5Gc which could trigger damaging inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to cancer. There is also evidence to suggest Neu5Gc is linked to heart diseases, arthritis, diabetes and asthma.”
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