Red meat has always been known to cause cancer, but there is no exact reason as to why this happens. Now, scientists have discovered that cancer risk increases because red meat has an unnatural chemical that the body should not consume.
The Possible Reason
Previous studies have already proven that consumption of red meat can lead to a number of cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers. Recently, a team of US researchers have discovered the culprit behind this link is Neu5Gc, a sugar molecule that can be found in pork, lamb, and beef.
When you eat red meat, the body will immediately detect the sugar molecule as a foreign substance, which will lead to the immune system attacking it. Unfortunately, this immune response results to inflammation of your body. If this happens continually, this can promote the growth of tumors in the body.
Only Humans Have Higher Cancer Risk When Eating Red Meat
Other carnivores are able to eat and digest red meat without problems. In fact, this is what they naturally eat and they experience no side effects. Unluckily for humans, who consume red meat almost habitually, the sugar Neu5Gc is not present in the body, which is why an immune response in triggered.
The new study performed at the University of California in San Diego was conducted on laboratory mice where the researchers found out for the first time that feeding Neu5Gc and prompting antibodies to work against the sugar molecule does increase the risk of cancers in mice.
If a person’s diet is comprised mainly of red meat, Neu5Gc will cause the immune systems to continuously produce antibodies in order to get rid of the foreign substance. Chronic inflammation leads to tumor growth, which then results to cancer over time. This just proves that there is connection between chronic inflammation and other serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.
There is a little bit of good news for people who eat meat. According to the scientists, red meat is still a great source of nutrition, especially for young people. However, this type of meat should only be consumed in moderation. If you eat red meat almost every day though, this finding should be able to convince you to eat healthier foods. Although there is no specific recommended amount of red meat to eat safely, the World Cancer Research Fund advises people to eat 500g per week and no more than that.