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Meat May Exceed Daily Allowance of Irony

The foreign meat molecule Neu5Gc may not only contribute to the progression of cancer and heart disease by supplying inflammation, but also set children up for life-threatening reactions to E. coli toxins originating in the same animal products.

December 18, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to: via Wikimedia Commons and Rusty Clark.


Beyond the putative role of nonhuman NeuGC as a potential molecular link between diet, autoreactive antibodies, and the progression of human cancer, one final tidbit on the evolving NeuGc story. The potentially deadly toxin produced by E. coli O157:H7 that causes the hemolytic-uremic syndrome that can shut down the kidneys of children actually attaches to NeuGc. When we eat animal products, the “assimilation of dietary Neu5Gc creates high-affinity receptors on the human gut lining and kidney blood vessels, conferring susceptibility to the gastrointestinal and systemic toxicities of the E. coli toxin. Ironically, the same foods rich in NeuGC are the most common source of contamination with these toxin-producing E. coli. So meat provides us with the receptors to the very toxins the meat may contain. It's like a gunman handing us our own bulls eye. So there are both long and short term consequences. “Taken together, these findings suggest a ‘two-hit’ process in the pathogenesis of human E coli induced disease. First, humans eat Neu5Gc-rich food, leading to incorporation of Neu5Gc on the surfaces of theirs cells. Second, when exposed to a toxin producing strain, the toxin produced would be able to bind to the intestinal epithelial cells, perhaps causing acute gastrointestinal symptoms, and eventually damaging endothelial cells in other organs like the kidney, thereby causing HUS. “Neu5Gc-rich foods not only sensitizes human tissues to the toxin, but also simultaneously increases the likelihood of infection with toxin producing E coli. These pathogens are usually found in the intestines of livestock… and as such most commonly enter the human food chain by fecal contamination . Thus, those who consume large amounts of these types of foods may be unwittingly preparing their bodies for damage by a toxin-producing organism that contaminates their next meal of the very same food types. The researchers ask: Is this “Poetic justice for meat eaters?" Not, when it’s a major cause of acute life-threatening kidney failure in children.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This is the final installment of my video series that started with Cancer as an Autoimmune Disease, the mystery for which may have been solved with How Tumors Use Meat to Grow: Xeno-Autoantibodies. Neu5Gc may also play a role in heart disease (Nonhuman Molecules Lining Our Arteries) and inflammatory arthritis (The Inflammatory Meat Molecule Neu5Gc), but this understanding requires some background on how our immune systems work. This is explained in Clonal Selection Theory of Immunity and Clonal Deletion Theory of Immunity. For more on E. coli, see Fecal Bacteria Survey and Chicken Out of UTIs.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Plant-Based Diets for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Probiotics and Diarrhea

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Jeffrey Zayda

    Prevent acute life rltgreatening kidney failure in children, and good day to you too laddie!

  • Thea

    Powerful ending. Well said.

  • Becky

    If a person becomes a strict vegan, would the offending substance/receptor that “attracts” the Ecoli/toxin be cleared from their system? And, were the folks who got Ecoli sickness in the recent past– from say spinach contaminated or fertilized with manuer– Vegan, non-vegan or both?