(NaturalNews) Like to eat meat? Consider this unappetizing truth: When you gulp down a nice juicy steak or hamburger, you are contributing to tumor-fueling inflammation in your body.
In fact, eating a diet rich in red meat has long been linked to a host of ills including an increased risk of several types of cancer. But what is it about meat consumption that could impact cancer growth? Now scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have found a mechanism that explains how eating red meat, as well as milk, could spur the growth of malignancies. The new study, headed by Ajit Varki, M.D., suggests that inflammation resulting from a molecule introduced through eating these foods could make cancer grow. The research is set for upcoming publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Dr.Varki, UC San Diego School of Medicine distinguished professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine and co-director of the UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and his research team studied a non-human glycan, or sugar molecule, known as N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc). Although this molecule is not produced naturally in the human body, it's incorporated into human tissues if you eat red meat. The body then develops antibodies against Neu5Gc – and this immune response could potentially trigger a low-grade chronic inflammation, spurring the growth of cancer. In a statement prepared for the media, Dr. Varki explained it has been recognized by scientists for some time that chronic inflammation can stimulate cancer progression.
"We've shown that tumor tissues contain much more Neu5Gc than is usually found in normal human tissues. We therefore surmised that Neu5Gc must somehow benefit tumors," Dr. Varki said in the press statement. So the scientists came up with this hypothesis: The fact that Neu5Gc accumulates in human tumors despite circulating anti-Neu5Gc antibodies suggests a low-grade, chronic inflammation has developed, and caused the tumor to grow. To test this idea, the researchers worked with specially bred mice. The animals lacked the Neu5Gc molecule , just as humans do before they eat red meat and the molecule is absorbed into their bodies, and they had tumors.
Anti-Neu5Gc antibodies were given to half of the mice . In those animals, the antibodies induced inflammation and their cancers started growing faster. In the control group comprised of mice that were not treated with antibodies, their tumor growth was far less aggressive.
Building on previous research that has shown that humans who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly known as NSAIDs) have a reduced risk of cancer, the researchers tried giving NSAIDs to the mice with cancerous tumors fueled by anti-Neu5Gc antibodies. The result? The anti-inflammatory treatment blocked the effect of the Neu5Gc antibodies and the tumors became smaller.
"Taken together, our data indicate that chronic inflammation results from interaction of Neu5Gc accumulated in our bodies from eating red meat with the antibodies that circulate as an immune response to this non-human molecule – and this may contribute to cancer risk," Varki said in the media statement.
For anyone interested in reducing inflammation through natural, non-drug methods, here are seven top strategies to incorporate into your lifestyle: 1. Stop eating meat and dairy products. 2. Concentrate on a Mediterranean flavored style of eating with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains , olive oils and nuts. Research has shown these foods lower inflammation levels. 3. Don't smoke and avoid those who do – second hand smoke can contribute to inflammation. 4. Know your oils. Avoid all inflammation-causing trans-fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils as well as saturated animal fats. Instead, add inflammation-fighting omega-3 oils like flaxseed, canola and walnut oil to your diet. 5. Lose weight if you need to. Research has shown that a waist that measures over 40 inches in a man or over 35 inches in a woman is a sign of probable high inflammation. 6. Don't skimp on sleep. Previous studies have concluded less than six hours of sleep can result in inflammation . 7. De-stress. Try yoga, meditation, walking and other forms of exercise. Staying continually stressed out means your body is releasing excess, inflammation-promoting stress hormones . Schedule a minimum of 20 minutes a day to let your worries go.
About the author
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.