Red Meat: Risk for the Intestines

The heme iron in red meat is said to damage the genetic material and promote cell division. The latter is an important factor in the development of cancer. That’s what researchers found.

Red meat, such as beef and pork, is rich in iron, which is needed for the formation of red blood cells. However, too much red meat promotes the development of colon cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes, as a study showed in 2017.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies red meat as “probably carcinogenic”. White meat, i.e. poultry meat is considered to be more digestible, lower in calories, and lower in fat. Because there is danger in rosy, experts warn The substance that gives the meat its red color is heme iron.

Heme iron promotes cell division

Researchers assume that it could be responsible for a cancer-promoting activity in the intestine – and examined the iron from meat and sausage products: On the one hand, it became clear that heme iron damages the genetic material. On the other hand, there is evidence that it also promotes cell division – an important factor in the development of cancer. The damage to the intestinal mucosa and intestinal cells is greater the more red meat is eaten. High consumption of heme iron, therefore, leads to existing cancer cells growing better and being stronger against the immune system.

Different forms of iron

There are two different forms of iron:

  • Bivalent heme iron (Fe2+) is mainly found in red meat and sausage. The body can use 20 percent of it from food.
  • Trivalent iron (Fe3+) from plant nutrients such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, oilseeds, and vegetables must first be oxidized to a form of Fe in the small intestine so that the body can use it – but only to around five percent.

Iron is deposited in the liver, spleen, and pancreas

The iron level is normally regulated in the liver and intestines: If too much iron storage protein ferritin is measured, the body stops absorbing it from food. However, this does not work with large amounts of heme iron and the body continues to absorb it because it is easily utilizable. The excess iron is then deposited in the liver, spleen, and pancreas – and can put a lot of strain on them. In addition, heme iron can change and damage human cells, for example, the intestinal cells. The recommendation: no more than one steak per week – or better a piece of light meat.

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