Researchers try to Explain Link between Red Meat and Cancer

SHAFAQNA – A new research states that the presence of a sugar Neu5Gc in red meat could be the main cause behind high risk of cancer associated with consumption of red meat. The researchers have assessed many studies to know the link between meat and various cancers. However, till date, they were not able to ascertain a clear reason for the higher cancer risk.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego Medical School have found a sugar called Neu5Gc that might play a tumor-forming role. The sugar is generally found in mammals, and not in humans.

In the study, Dr. Ajit Varki, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and his team fed Neu5Gc to mice with sugar deficiency. It was made sure that the mice were not exposed to carcinogens, and it was found that the mice exposure to Neu5Gc promotes cancer.

“Until now, all of our evidence linking Neu5Gc to cancer was circumstantial or indirectly predicted from somewhat artificial experimental setups”, said Varki. It has happened for the first time that mimicking the situation in humans, a rise in spontaneous cancers in mice has been noticed.

The study researchers were of the view that red meat, including beef, pork and lamb are rich in Neu5Gc and it can be termed as the main source of this particular sugar in the human diet.

As per the research team, Neu5Gc is absorbed by the body but the body still considers it as a foreign substance. The sugar enters human tissues, leading to inflammation in immune system of the body. Inflammation takes places as the body continuously generates antibodies to fight Neu5Gc.

For the body, Neu5Gc is a foreign object. When the body continuously fights foreign molecule, the inflammation can become chronic and lead to tumor formation in the process. It shall however, be noted that it is the hypothesis that the researchers have been trying to prove by carrying out experiments on mice.


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