A new study out of the University of California, has discovered the culprit behind why eating red meat leads to higher instances of cancer -and it all has to do with a sugar, Neu5Gc.
Humans are the only animals that have a higher risk of cancer when it comes to eating red meat, as other carnivores eat red meat naturally with no ill side effects. The study, which was published December 29 in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” discovered that a unique sugar named Neu5Gc, found in most mammals but not in humans, triggers an immune response that in turn causes inflammation.
Neu5Gc, a non-human sialic acid sugar molecule common in red meat that increases the risk of tumor formation in humans, is also prevalent in pig organs, with concentrations increasing as the organs are cooked, a study by researchers from the UC Davis School of Medicine and Xiamen University School of Medicine has found.
The research, published in Glycoconjugate Journal Sept. 9, suggests that Neu5Gc may pose a significant health hazard among those who regularly consume organ meats from pigs.
Neu5Gc is naturally found on cell surfaces in most mammals but not in humans. It gets incorporated into human cells by eating meats, organs and some dairy products.
Previous studies have shown when Neu5Gc is incorporated into human tissues, the immune system recognizes it as a foreign threat, producing antibodies to counter it. Repeated consumption of these meats then causes chronic inflammation, which has been known to increase risks of tumor formation. Neu5Gc has been linked to cancer as well as cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases, including some bacterial infections.