A diet rich in red meat has been linked to an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. This is no longer news to anyone in the healthcare field since numerous studies and statistical data have shown a significant association between those who consume red meats on a regular basis and the likelihood of their eventually developing the often fatal disease.
What has puzzled researchers for years, however, is the reason for this strong connection between diet and disease. Now, a new study published in Cancer Research, may have uncovered the answer.
After comparing a vegetarian diet to a red meat diet, scientists at the Dunn Human Nutrition Unit and the Open University found that the red meat diet was linked to a higher level of DNA damage in cells exposed to digestive side-products that form in the large intestine.
Previously, in 2005, the Dunn team completed a study that found that people who regularly ate more than two portions of red meat per day may be at a one-third higher risk of developing bowel cancer than individuals who ate less than one weekly portion.
Now, the latest data involves the examination of colon cells from healthy volunteers who ate different diets. The Dunn team found that those who consumed red meats exhibited more DNA damage in those cells taken from people eating a relatively meat-free diet.
Researchers at Open University believe the DNA damage may come from the presence of substances known as N-nitrosocompounds, which form in the large bowel during the digestive process after consuming red meat.
According to the Open University team, these compounds then combine with the bodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s DNA and change it in ways that make it more open to dangerous mutations that increase the risk of developing cancer.
“These combined discoveries have allowed us to link red meat consumption to an increased risk of bowel cancer and may give us some clues about developing a screening test for very early changes related to the disease,” said Professor David Shuker, who headed the Open University team.
Presently, large bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in western countries with almost one million cases occurring annually worldwide.
One bowel cancer charity sees the combined studies as Ã¢â‚¬Å“compelling epidemiological evidenceÃ¢â‚¬Â in the battle to understand and possibly prevent this particular type of cancer. Moreover, since one-third of all cancers are linked in some way to what people eat or drink, Ã¢â‚¬Å“we must not underestimate the importance of a well-balanced diet in the prevention of bowel cancer.Ã¢â‚¬Â
These most recent findings serve to confirm the conventional wisdom that people who do not moderate their intake of fat and red meat and eat little fiber, fruit, and vegetables, may be increasing their risk of developing colon cancer.
Experts see the results as further evidence of the specific risk associated with red meats as well as the importance of consuming higher amounts of dietary fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Increased consumption of high-calorie, high-fat fast foods has been implicated in the skyrocketing increases of obesity and diabetes. Now, the study results suggest that this type of food, which is high in meat products and low in vegetables, may also be precisely the same harmful diet that raises the risk of bowel cancer.