Inorganic food causes cancer

Cancer: that's how harmful red meat is for the intestines

The German consumes around 60 kilograms of meat per year. That is not healthy. Years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified red meat, including beef, lamb and game, as carcinogenic. Sausages made from pork or poultry are also on the index.

Colon cancer in particular is a result of high meat consumption. It is not only epidemiological data that confirm the increased risk of cancer. The toxic effects of meat in the human body have also already been shown in laboratory analyzes, with one component in particular, the organic compound “heme iron.

Meat damages the DNA of intestinal cells

In a current study, researchers at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern have now examined the effects of heme iron from red meat on healthy intestinal cells and degenerated colon cancer cells. The investigations were carried out on organoids, among other things - a lifelike replica of the intestine made from human intestinal cells. The results are alarming.

Accordingly, heme iron promotes the formation of reactive oxygen species and damages the genetic material (DNA) in the intestine. The researchers were able to observe how the organic iron compound caused healthy intestinal cells to die. Colon cancer cells were also damaged - but the cancer cells survived.

Heme iron, but not the inorganic iron, led to the death of normal intestinal cells, which could also be confirmed in so-called organoids from healthy intestinal tissue.

An enzyme is supposed to protect against the damage

Another discovery: Heme iron activated a cellular sensor for oxidative stress, whereby the enzyme heme oxygenase-1 HO-1 is produced in intestinal cells. "HO-1 is responsible for the breakdown of heme iron into inorganic iron and other products," explains Professor Jörg Driver, toxicologist at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern and the University of Mainz. The enzyme thus has a protective function.

But if enough HO-1 was not yet available, the concentration of reactive oxygen species rose sharply, which led to increased oxidative DNA damage and ultimately to cell death.

Free heme iron promotes colon cancer

"Taken together, these findings illustrate that free heme iron has a toxic effect in cells and that HO-1 has a very important protective function," says Professor Driver. "Our study makes an important contribution to understanding the toxic effects of heme iron in intestinal cells and shows how it can promote the development of colon cancer as a component of red meat."

The research results were recently published in the journal Cell Death & Disease.

Photo: © Adobe Stock / puhhha

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