Neu5Gc: Sugar Molecule in Red Meat That Causes Cancer in Humans

  • Nutrition can greatly influence health. Different dietary habits are strongly associated with various human diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension. A large number of studies have shown that high consumption of foods of mammalian origin (i.e., red meat and dairy products) is considered a risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans.

    N-Hydroxy acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) is a common sialic acid found in mammals. Most carnivores synthesize this molecule themselves, but humans do not. Therefore, when humans are first exposed to dairy and meat products in infancy, the body produces anti-Neu5Gc antibodies.

    The research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that feeding mice with food high in the sugar molecule Neu5Gc caused spontaneous tumors to increase significantly. Because the mice were not given artificially induced cancers or carcinogens, Neu5Gc is thought to be a significant connection between red meat intake and cancer.

    The researchers began by conducting a systematic study of popular dietary products. They found significant levels of Neu5Gc in lamb, pork, and beef, showing that red meat is abundant in this sugar molecule. Neu5Gc is also bioavailable, which means it may easily travel throughout the body via the bloodstream.

    The study was based on the hypothesis that red meat consumption causes inflammation. Because the immune system perceives Neu5Gc as a danger when it becomes stuck in bodily tissues, it produces antibodies to attack it. The consumption that red meat will result in chronic inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of tumor development.

    Another group of scientists, the majority of whom were from Tel Aviv University in Israel, published new discoveries in this connection in Association between Neu5Gc carbohydrate and serum antibodies against it provides the molecular link to cancer: French NutriNet-Santé study. The goal of this large-scale research undertaken in France is to look at the complicated links between diet and health.

    The authors of this study gathered information from 16,149 people who had kept a minimum of six dietary records. The researchers analyzed blood samples from 120 people who had kept at least eighteen 24-hour food records and discovered a link between high consumption of Neu5Gc from red meat and cheese and an increase in inflammation, which might increase the risk of developing certain medical conditions, such as cancer.

    Neu5Gc research will not only guide individuals to plan their diets more properly, but it will also benefit cancer research. Multiple studies have proved the role of some enzymes, hormones, antigens, and antibodies, such as neuron-specific enolase, carcinoembryonic antigen, and natural autoantibodies as cancer biomarkers, and now, several studies have shown that certain Neu5Gc antibodies can also be used as cancer biomarkers and may play a key role in tumor prevention, diagnosis, and prognosis.