Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Link Between Red Meat and Cancer Finally Isolated

Link Between Red Meat and Cancer Finally Isolated
By Kurtis Bright

New Evidence Shows It Is Akin To An Immune Response

It has long been known cancer is linked to red meat consumption. Decades of this knowledge haven’t brought us any closer to understanding how this works, and even with medical professionals and dieticians urging people to cut down on the amount of red meat they eat at a sitting, and/or to limit the number of times per week they eat it, neither are we any closer to eliminating it as a cancer cause.

The red meat and cancer connection even led to the dubious but effective “Pork: it’s the other white meat” campaign, as well as surely contributing to an increase in sales of chicken and turkey--although for the record, pork and lamb have also been found in recent studies to contribute to increased chances of developing cancer.

But yet another new study seems to show that the mechanism for the body’s toxic reaction to red meat is very strange indeed: it seems that the human body views red meat as a foreign invader, and this triggers an immune response.

Despite what the local meatheads will tell you, humans did not in fact evolve to eat a diet primarily made up of meat. This has been proven time and again, despite the presence of prominent canines in our mouths.

There is a certain vanity and machismo at work in these claims, but as much as we would like to see ourselves as lions or wolves, we are much closer in a dietary sense to chimps, who subsist largely on vegetation, with the occasional tidbit of colobus monkey thrown in every few days. We’re talking a small handful of meat, no more than a few bites, every third day or so--that’s what our closest relatives eat.

But scientists now think they know why other mammals can eat a diet much higher in red meat without the cancerous consequences humans face. Studies have isolated a sugar in beef, pork and lamb that, while naturally occurring in carnivores, isn’t manufactured by the human animal. 

So, sorry uber-masculine frat-bro types, but we are definitely designed to be omnivores.

Hate to break it to you, but you are more monkey than lion.

So what is going on then, when people eat red meat? Scientists now think that the body sends signals indicating that the corpus is under attack from the foreign sugar found in meat, and then triggers an immune response. What follows, as in any immune response, is inflammation. Given enough repetitions of this cycle, you are eventually facing cancer.

This sugar--called Neu5Gc--naturally occurs in strict carnivores like big cats and wolves. Thus their bodies don’t react adversely when Neu5Gc is introduced in the form of a big meaty meal. Scientists at the University of California San Diego found that when they engineered mice that don’t produce Neu5Gc, they 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.

Dr. Varki however was also quick to point out that this is just a very small step in better understanding the cancer/red meat connection.

“The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by,” he said.

Nonetheless, it is a mighty leap of a first step. Perhaps coming to the table armed with a factual understanding of a direct link between cancer and red meat in the form of Neu5Gc, medical professionals and dieticians can take a more assertive role in convincing people of the need to reduce red meat consumption--for health reasons if nothing else.

Forget about the environmental issues involved with factory farming, the horrific overuse of antibiotics and other drugs, the disease produced in these conditions, and the cruelty of the way we do meat: we now know not only that red meat causes cancer, we also know how.

If that's not reason enough to consider another approach to how we do food, I don't know what is,

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