Red meat
Based on what the World Health Organization has to say about consumption of red meat, California might decide to put red meat on cancer-alert list. Flickr

Scientists have discovered what they believe to be the connection between red meat and cancer, which have long been linked by researchers. A team of scientists from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) discovered this week that red meats including beef, pork and lamb contain a sugar that's created naturally by many other meat-eating animals but not by humans.

The sugar identified in the study, dubbed Neu5GC, caused tumors in mice genetically engineered to not produce the compound in a lab study conducted by the researchers. The results help provide a level of groundbreaking understanding about the cancer-causing effects of red meat consumption by humans.

“Until now, all of our evidence linking Neu5Gc to cancer was circumstantial or indirectly predicted from somewhat artificial experimental setups,” Dr Ajit Varki, a professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine at UCSD, said in a press release announcing the breakthrough. “This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans -- feeding nonhuman Neu5Gc and inducing anti-Neu5Gc antibodies -- increases spontaneous cancers in mice.”

But Varki said that though Neu5Gc throws “gasoline on the fire,” it does not directly cause cancer in those who eat it, according to The Daily Mail. It is instead a catalyst of sorts for cancer.

The scientists emphasize that moderate consumption of red meat does have nutritional benefits like providing protein, vitamins and minerals, according to the Telegraph. Humans should eat 2.5 ounces or less of red meat per day, the equivalent of one lamb chop or two slices of roast beef, according to health experts.

The findings of the researchers seem to debunk the popularly held belief that grilling red meat produces carcinogenic chemicals, thus leading to cancer in humans, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.