Nutrition is essential to health; what we eat in our daily diet affects our overall health condition and what diseases we might be at risk of developing in the future.
An example is a non-human mammalian sugar “Neu5Gc” present abundantly in mammals but not in poultry and fish; when humans consume it in diet during infancy, the cells develop antibodies against it “anti-Neu5Gc IgG” that could increase the risk of colorectal cancer. This sugar is present abundantly in red meat and dairy products.
But the direct molecular link between the consumption of red meat and dairy products and the increase of antibodies against “Neu5Gc” have not yet been found until now by researchers at Tel Aviv University's George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences led by Dr. Vered Padler-Karavani.
Researchers used data from a French study NutriNet-Santé, which is a web-based worldwide ongoing study that investigates the relationship between nutrition and health.
The researchers collected data from 19,621 subjects aged ≥ 18 years that reported all their diet intake over several days to calculate the levels of “Neu5Gc” and serum anti-Neu5Gc IgG.
After investigating the levels of “Neu5Gc” from different food sources, the study found a link between the increased serum levels of “Neu5Gc” and the intake of red meat and dairy products.
Dr. Padler-Karavani, one of the researchers, and her team have developed an index called the Gcemic index that shows how different food sources increase the levels of “Neu5Gc” and anti-bodies against it leading to increased cancer risk.
"We found a significant correlation between high consumption of Neu5Gc from red meat and cheeses and increased development of those antibodies that heighten the risk of cancer," Dr. Padler-Karavani says. "For years, there have been efforts to find such a connection, but no one did. Here, for the first time, we were able to find a molecular link thanks to the accuracy of the methods used to measure the antibodies in the blood and the detailed data from the French diet questionnaires."
The study was published in BMC Medicine in September 2020.