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Various investigations have linked the consumption of red meat to colon cancer. Now an international team of researchers has identified a direct molecular link between meat and dairy diets and the development of antibodies in the blood that increase the chances of developing cancer.
A meta-analysis of 29 studies on meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases the risk by 28% and a high consumption of processed meat increases the risk by 20%.
Recent research published in BMC Medicine explains why the high incidence of cancer among those who consume large amounts of dairy products and red meat.
Why do meat and cheese increase the risk of cancer?
The reason is in something called Neu5Gc found in mammalian meat and dairy. Neu5Gc is a sugar molecule and humans develop antibodies against it in childhood, when they are first exposed to dairy and meat products.
Neu5Gc is found in mammalian tissues, which is why chicken and other poultry meat as well as fish and shellfish do not have the same effects as red meat in terms of cancer risk.
The antibodies that humans generate against this molecule in mammalian meat and dairy products increase the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
Those who eat a lot of red meat and cheese will develop high levels and a different range of antibodies, and therefore may be at increased risk for cancer.
“We found a significant correlation between high consumption of Neu5Gc from red meat and cheeses and increased development of those antibodies that increase the risk of cancer,” says the Dr. who led the study, Vered Padler-Karavani from the Department of Cell Research and Immunology from the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research at the George S. Wise School of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University.