Neu5Gc, a non-human sugar found in red meat, promotes inflammation and cancer progression in rodents, according to a study conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
Researchers found that feeding Neu5Gc to mice engineered to be deficient in the sugar significantly promoted spontaneous cancers. The study did not involve exposure to carcinogens or artificially inducing cancers, thus implying Neu5Gc as a key link between red meat consumption and cancer.
Previous studies have revealed that animal Neu5Gc can be absorbed into human tissues. In this study, researchers hypothesized that eating red meat could lead to inflammation if the body's immune system is constantly generating antibodies against consumed animal Neu5Gc, a foreign molecule. Chronic inflammation is known to promote tumor formation.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.