Cancer And The Link To Red Meat: New Evidence Shows It Is Akin To An Immune Response
We’ve long known about cancer and its link to red meat consumption. We’ve had decades of knowing this information, with medical professionals urging people to cut down on the amount of red meat they eat at a sitting, or to limit the number of times per week they eat it.
The connection between red meat and cancer led to the dubious but effective “Pork: it’s the other white meat” campaign, as well as surely contributing to increased sales of chicken and turkey.
But what we didn’t know was what exactly was the mechanism for causing the eruption of tumors that have been linked to eating beef as well as–sorry pork industry–pork and lamb.
A new study seems to show that the human body views red meat as a foreign invader, triggering a toxic immune response.
Far from what your frat-bro friends will tell you humans did not evolve to eat a diet primarily made up of meat, despite the presence of prominent canines in our mouths. As much as we would like to see ourselves as lions or wolves, instead we are in a dietary sense much closer to chimps, who subsist largely on vegetation, with the occasional bit of colobus moneky thrown in every few days.
And now scientists think they have discovered why other mammals can eat a diet much higher in red meat without the cancerous consequences we face: they have isolated a sugar in beef, pork and lamb that, while it is naturally occurring in carnivores, humans don’t make it–again, sorry uber-masculine frat-bro types, but we are definitely designed to be omnivores.
What happens then when people eat red meat? The body fires off signals indicating an attack form the foreign sugar, and an immune response is triggered. This primes the pump for inflammation, and, given enough times of repeating this cycle over and over, eventually cancer.
In strict carnivores like big cats and wolves, this sugar, which is called Neu5Gc naturally occurs, so their bodies don’t react adversely when it is introduced in the form of a big meaty meal. By engineering mice that don’t produce Neu5Gc, scientists at the University of California San Diego found that when the would also develop tumors when fed a diet rich in red meat.
“This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki of UCSD.
However Dr. Varki was quick to point out that this is just a very small baby step.
“The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by,” he added.
Still, it is a great first step in understanding not only the link between cancer and eating red meat, but in convincing people who refuse to believe its true in the first place. For the first time there is direct evidence of a chemical link between cancer and red meat, and who knows where this line of research will lead.