Avoiding red meat reduces tumor growth in cancer

Avoiding red meat reduces tumor growth in cancer

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How does our diet affect cancer?

Diet has long been an integral part of the treatment of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The latest research shows that diet also has a major impact on the treatment of cancer. Researchers have now found that restricting the intake of an amino acid from red meat and eggs significantly improves cancer treatment and contributes to slower tumor growth.

A recent study by the Duke University School of Medicine found that decreased red meat intake slowed cancer growth. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nature".

Medications should be combined with the right diet

Restricting the intake of a particular amino acid from red meat and eggs slowed tumor growth in an attempt on mice, leading to improved treatment outcomes for the disease. The study shows that there are many situations in which a drug or radiation in itself does not work effectively until the drug or radiation therapy is combined with the right diet.

Does methionine promote cancer cell growth?

The study focused on limiting the uptake of the amino acid methionine, which is the key to a process that promotes cancer cell growth. Methionine restrictions have been linked to anti-aging and weight loss, but the importance for cancer cells suggests that it could also be a promising way to improve cancer treatment, the research team reports.

Combination of radiation and nutrition improved treatment

The researchers first examined methionine restriction in healthy mice to confirm that the desired effects on metabolism were triggered. Then they examined the effects in mice with colon cancer and so-called soft tissue sarcomas. They found that a low dose of chemotherapy, which by itself had no effect on colorectal cancer, in combination with a methionine restriction led to a significant inhibition of tumor growth. Similarly, combining methionine restriction with radiation therapy in the case of soft tissue sarcoma reduced tumor growth.

Unprocessed meat has an even higher risk

Unprocessed meat such as beef, pork and lamb is at greater risk than processed meat such as bacon or sausage. Usually, higher cooking temperatures are used in the preparation of unprocessed meat, which may affect the composition of bacteria in the intestine or the inflammatory activity. Nevertheless, the exact reason for the increased risk from these foods is still unknown.

More research is needed

The results should not be extrapolated beyond the types of cancer tested so far, and the research is still far from being continued in humans, the researchers explain. However, there are very interesting interactions between the foods consumed and changes in metabolism. The changes in cell metabolism could also affect tumor growth. Before any conclusions can be drawn as to the potential of restricting nutrition as an approach to cancer treatment, studies in humans are required in any case, the research team adds.

The research work has since been expanded further. A diet restricted to methionine was tested on six healthy people. It was found that the effect on human metabolism was similar to that in mice. This suggests that diet may have a similar effect on certain tumors in humans, although researchers warn that it is far too early to draw definitive conclusions.

Proper nutrition has a huge impact on cancer treatment

The results of the study contribute to a range of research that suggests that diet may play an important role in cancer treatment. In the past year, a study has already shown that a type of chemotherapy drug in combination with a low-sugar and high-protein and high-fat diet is more effective. Other types of cancer appear to be more treatable when combined with low-sugar diets. At some point in the future, it will be possible for doctors to advise cancer patients on certain forms of nutrition to support the treatment of their disease, the researchers hope. Until then, a lot of further research is needed. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Xia Gao, Sydney M. Sanderson, Ziwei Dai, Michael A. Reid, Daniel E. Cooper et al .: Dietary methionine influences therapy in mouse cancer models and alters human metabolism, in Nature (query: 05.08.2019), Nature

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