How does meat consumption affect your body?

What makes meat so dangerous to health

Too much meat consumption increases the risk of cancer, doctors warn again and again. But why is meat so risky to health? Which mechanisms does the animal product set in motion in the body? t-online.de asked a cancer expert.

The German Nutrition Society advises moderate meat consumption and recommends not consuming more than 300 grams per week. Because meat is considered to be potentially carcinogenic, especially red varieties such as pork, beef, lamb and goat. If meat is processed, for example smoked, salted or cured, the risk also increases.

A high consumption of meat promotes colon and stomach cancer

"The risk of colon cancer in particular increases with increased meat consumption," says Dr. Susanne Weg-Remers, Head of the Cancer Information Service (KID) at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). "The risk of developing stomach tumors is also increased." According to the expert, one of the factors is the long time meat remains in the large intestine.

Carcinogenic substances are produced during the digestion of meat
But what exactly makes meat the biggest cancer risk factor on the plate? According to the cancer expert, various factors come together. Red meat leads to the release of larger amounts of bile acids. The breakdown products of these bile acids also include those that can increase the risk of cancer.

What influence do viruses in meat have on the risk of cancer?

Another risk factor that scientists are currently researching is the influence of viruses found in meat. "Scientifically, this has not yet been conclusively clarified. But there are indications that viruses in meat may have a carcinogenic effect. What you can do until the research is further: Cook your meat well," advises Weg-Remers.

Better to avoid cured, salted and smoked meat
The type of preparation also plays an important role with regard to the risk of cancer. In particular, cured and smoked meat and sausage products are considered to be risky. "It doesn't matter whether it is red or white meat or even fish," said Weg-Remers. The nitrates used in cured goods are converted in the body into other nitrogen compounds, so-called nitrites. Intestinal bacteria in particular are involved in this process. Together with protein building blocks, nitrites in the intestine produce so-called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are thought to have a cancer-promoting effect.

High iron content in meat poses risks

The high iron content, especially in red meat, also has an unfavorable effect. "Together with animal proteins, iron can form cancer-promoting molecules, which belong to the so-called nitroso compounds," explains the cancer expert, adding: "Especially high temperatures, such as those caused by searing, trigger the formation of molecules. Meat should therefore be cooked gently absolutely recommendable. "

Carcinogenic substances are created by searing it
And there is another danger of searing, grilling and smoking meat: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs for short, are found in the burned areas and soot particles that are deposited on the meat. "The PAHs are carcinogenic because they are mutagenic, that is, they cause genetic changes," says Weg-Remers.

Obesity: an important risk factor for many types of cancer

In addition, many meat dishes are very high in calories. The WHO has linked obesity with the development of several types of tumors, including colon cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, gallbladder cancer, uterine cancer and kidney cancer. "According to the current state of research, the animal fat itself does not contain any cancer-promoting substances, but due to the often high calorie density, it promotes obesity," explains the cancer expert.

"Obesity is so risky because body fat - especially belly fat - releases more messenger substances that accelerate cell growth and cell division." Errors in the genetic information are thus favored. In addition, the metabolically active messenger substances promote inflammatory reactions in the body. Inflamed tissue is more prone to malignant changes.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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  • Subjects:
  • Health,
  • Nutrition,
  • Flesh,
  • Cancer risk,
  • Obesity,
  • Digestion,
  • Prostate cancer,
  • Breast cancer,
  • Liver cancer,
  • Colon cancer,
  • Kidney cancer,
  • Stomach cancer