Friday 6 November 2015

Red Meat and Cancer : Is there really a connection? Part 3

      In part 2 we covered the first two suspects in the connection between red meat and colon cancer. Let's move on.

Third suspect: Heat compounds
The other villain is that delicious char that forms on grilled foods. That char ,and high temperature cooking in general, creats chemicals that can damage the gut such as heterocyclic amines(HCAs). Red meat produces higher levels of these chemicals than white meat.Yet again,you have to consider the entirety of a meal. Certain veggies (like broccoli or Brussel sprouts) may substatially reduce the impact of HCAs in cooked meat. And, thank goodness, even marinades with certain spices can reduce HCAs ! Caribbean spices seem to perform the best.

Fourth suspect: Iron
Red meat is rich in iron,and iron is the goldilocks of all minerals. Many people are low in iron,so anemia is a public health concern. But on the opposite end,iron is very easily oxidized (think rust). The iron in red meat can easily build up in intestinal cells,since it isn't tightly bound to other compounds like it is in many plants.When iron oxidizes,it eventually causes cell damage,which makes its link to colorectal quite easy to understand.

Fifth suspect: TMAO
What exactly is TMAO ? TMAO stans for Trimethylamine N-oxide, a compound that some research has linked to colon cancer.Red meat is high in the amino acid L-carnitine. L-carnitine gets metabolized by some of the bacteria in your gut,and eventually turns into TMAO.Many studies have linked TMAO to disease but there's more to this than meets the eye. Certain types of bacteria can increase your TMAO production while other types can decrease it.

Sixth suspect: Neu5Gc
All mammals other than humans(plus, strangely,ferrets,along with a few monkeys species) have a type of sugar in their bodies called Neu5Gc,whereas we have Neu5Ac. Neu5Gc can get into your cells and become prey to the immune system,which results in inflammation.Evidence shows that human tumors can contain high levels of Neu5Gc.A 2015 stud showed that very very high levels of this compound can cause cancer in mice.

It's pretty clear from the evidence that eating red meat every day has decent chance of increasing  cancer risk,specifically colorectal cancer. Consuming high amounts of processed red meat in particular is really playing with fire.Be sure to mix up your cooking methods,and try some gentle cooking techniques.But all that being said,the evidence is mostly observational.In this case,as in many others, moderation may be the key 

Sunday 1 November 2015

Red Meat and Cancer . Is there really a connection ? Part 2

            Now a quick rundown of the physiological mechanisms as to why red meat might or might not impact cancer. We've established that the key cancer here is colorectal cancer. So most of these mechanisims have to do with intestinal damage.Two of the villians in the red meat and cancer story are colours !Specifically, red and black. And one possible hero is also a colour: green.  

First suspect : NOCs
Red meat is red because of the red pigment in the blood.Part of this pigment can be processed in the gut into something called N-nitroso compuonds (NOCs),which can damage the gut lining.When this happens the gut repairs itself by cell replication, and DNA damage. This is not a good thing. Un processed red meat doesn't have as direct an impact on gut damage as does processed red meat . Basically, processed red meat forms NOCs much ,much faster than the meat itself.Luckily,most people don't eat an all-red-meat diet. And it turns out that if you eat green veggies with your meat,that risk of colon cancer risk can be substantially reduced ! Having some of that in your gut to compete with the pigment might reduce or potentially eliminate them from being turned into dangerous chemicals.

Second suspects: Heat compounds
The other villain is that delicious char that forms on grilled foods.It turns out that this char, and high cooking in general creates chemicals that can damsge the gut such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Red meat produces much higher levels of these chemicals than white meat.This is is an excellent example of why caveman/ paleo eating is not inherently healthy. Yet again, you have to consider the entirety of a meal. Certain veggies(like broccoli or Brussel sprouts) may substantially reduce the impact of HCAs in cooked meat. And.thank goodness,even marinades with certain spices can reduce HCAs.

             I hope you are learning something from all of this. Part 3 will follow soon. As you can see the whole red meat and cancer issue isn't as clear cut as we may have thought.   

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