As seen on Science Alert , there is an association between consumption of red meat and higher chance of cancer. Namely, a study done to investigate the CMAH gene has discovered how this association takes place and could even be of aid to help scientists to learn more about the worst types of meat that we should avoid eating.
What Is the CMAH Gene?
This gene is in charge of the synthesis of the sugar molecule Neu5Gc which is found in red meat and some fish and dairy too. In humans, this gene is mutated and our bodies do not create it. Hence, when we eat red meat or other foods that have this sugar, an immune response to it can take place and lead to serious health problems, including inflammation, arthritis, and cancer. Nonetheless, by now, there have been only several animal species that produce this molecule discovered.
What Did the Researchers Do?
With the goal to understand more, a team of scientists from the University of Nevada in Reno tested 322 animal genomes and organized them on an evolutionary chart and attempted to determine when the CMAH gene was deactivated in the specific species. The gene was discovered in some bacteria, in a pair of algae, and in the deuterostomes, among others.
According to the researchers, they found tiny amounts of the sugar molecule in fish meat containing the CMAH gene whereas higher amounts of it were present in their caviar. This may be a result of the fact that this gene is expressed specifically in the eggs of fish or oviducts. Unfortunately, one of the most expensive foods in the world is also one of the products with the highest level of Neu5Gc. But, there were also a lot of fish without this gene whose caviar should be free of this sugar molecule.
Although the research does not make big changes in regards to the diet recommendations given these days, there is certainly more information on CMAH and the evolutionary pressures on it. According to experts, the gene’s deactivation may have guarded us from some illnesses like a type of malaria which can still infect gorillas and chimpanzees.
Animal species with this gene may have meat with the same cancerous characteristics as red meat, which may lead to other health-related complications in people. However, additional research is necessary so that all of the remaining questions are answered.