In the past, health experts believed that roasted red meat increased the risk of cancer. However, they could not understand why roasting chicken and fish did not lead to an increased risk.
Now they have a better understanding of the reasons why red meat causes cancer.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego discovered that the reason that red meat is related to an increased risk of cancer is that it contains a sugar molecule, specifically Neu5Gc, that is not naturally found in the human body. When the immune system detects this sugar molecule, it attacks it, and it is the inflammation in this attack that over time and continuous exposure significantly increases the risk of cancer.
In addition, the Neu5Gc molecule is found in beef, pork, lamb and bison, but not in chicken or fish, two sources of meat unrelated to an increased risk of cancer. It is also found in fish eggs (caviar) as well as in whole milk and certain cheeses.
Dr. Ajit Varki, lead author of the study, explained that the data obtained on the Neu5Gc phenomenon is unprecedented and explained that it is like a "potential fuel", which means it does not cause cancer directly but increases the risk for the disease.
“In this case, this is invasive sugar like a Trojan horse. It becomes part of their own cells, ”he said. “When you react to a peanut or other substance that causes allergy, you react to something strange. This is the first example we know of something strange that is fully integrated into the body, even if your immune system recognizes it as an intrusion, ”he said.
Less red meat
In addition to being a major cause of global warming, red meat is one of the reasons for many of the modern conditions, such as hypertension, obesity and heart disease.
A vegetarian diet that is free of all products of animal origin could reduce the chances of suffering from cancer precisely because of the reduction of exposure of the Neu5Gc molecule.
According to the scientific article mentioned, the diets of 42,012 people were followed: those who ate a higher amount of red meat had a 23% higher risk of cancer compared to those who ate less. On the other side of the equation, it was similar: those who ate more poultry had a 15% lower risk than those who ate less red meat.