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Consumption of red meat and dairy products

A number of environmental and biological factors may have an influence over an individual’s risk of developing fibrosis, and the chances of recovering from it. The body is a highly complex system of processes, with a large number of interactions and feedback effects between hormones and cells, and scientific advances in understanding are made regularly. Small alterations in one hormone can have powerful effects on many functions including stress, digestion, fertility and immune system function.

While the science behind the existence of these environmental and biological factors is sound, it’s not yet clear to what extent they impact on fibrotic processes.

Nutrition can dramatically affect health, and a range of inflammatory diseases are associated with the consumption of red meat and dairy products [1]. The exact cause of the increased inflammation is not well established, but we know that toxic products created during cooking (PAHs), and cancer-causing compounds are present in preserved meat [1].

Recent research now suggests another causative link between the consumption of red meat and dairy products with disease. Animal products contain a type of sugar called sialic acid that humans are not able to make, and which triggers an inflammatory response [2]. Every time that we consume these products, the more inflammation there is, and this inflammation can contribute to fibrosis. I’m not suggesting that going vegetarian is the best approach; however, the science suggests that it is worth limiting the consumption of red meat and dairy products.

When we consume this foreign sialic acid (Neu5Gc) it’s taken in by our cells and presented on the surface them. This causes the body to make antibodies to it. Antibodies are proteins that the body makes that “tag” foreign objects like viruses so that the immune system will destroy them, and the cell that they are attached to.

Everybody has these antibodies to the sialic acids in red meat and dairy [1], and the amount of antibodies depends on how much red meat and dairy we consume [2]. The antibodies see the sialic acid on the surface of our cells, sound the alarm, and activate the immune system. Evidence shows that this contributes to vascular inflammation, diabetes type 2 and cancer [2], and very likely, fibrosis.

  1. Bashir, S. et al. Association between Neu5Gc carbohydrate and serum antibodies against it provides the molecular link to cancer: French NutriNet-Sante study. BMC Med 18, 262, doi:10.1186/s12916-020-01721-8 (2020).

  2. Pruimboom, L. SARS-CoV 2; Possible alternative virus receptors and pathophysiological determinants. Med Hypotheses 146, 110368, doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110368 (2021).

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