The Surprising Link Between Steak, Cheese and Cancer Fighting Cells
The Power of Trans-Vaccenic Acid
In the complex discourse surrounding dietary choices, the consumption of red meat, cheese and butter stands at a particularly contentious crossroads. Many question the logic behind this because, from an evolutionary perspective, these foods have been a staple in the human diet for millennia, playing a crucial role in our developmental history. Red meat, for example, is a rich source of essential nutrients, including protein, iron and vitamin B12. Despite these evolutionary ties and nutritional benefits, contemporary dietary guidelines often discourage consumption of red meat and butter, citing concerns over heart health, cancer risk, and environmental sustainability.
As it turns out, a recent study published in Nature has found that eating a juicy steak, a slice of cheese or some butter can actually help fight cancer. It looked at how certain fats in our diet, specifically something called trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), can boost our body’s ability to fight cancer.
TVA might sound like a complex term but it is simply a type of fatty acid. It is found in ruminant-derived foods such as beef, lamb and dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter. Interestingly, while it is abundant in human milk, our bodies can’t actually produce it. So, the only way to get it is through our diet.
Researchers dove into the world of nutrients and how they influence our body, particularly our immune system’s ability to fight tumours. They discovered that TVA, this fat from our steaks and cheese, plays a starring role in enhancing the function of certain immune cells known as CD8+ T cells.
CD8+ T cells can be imagined as the body’s elite soldiers against cancer. TVA, when included in the diet, boosts these cells’ ability to infiltrate tumours and fight them off more effectively. The study showed that a diet rich in TVA increased the number of these cells in the tumour area and reduced signs of their exhaustion. In simple terms, TVA keeps these cells energised and more efficient in their cancer-fighting mission.
TVA does this by activating a specific pathway in these immune cells. This pathway, known as the cAMP-PKA-CREB pathway, is like hitting the accelerator pedal on these cells, revving them up to fight the cancer more effectively. The researchers also pinpointed a specific target of TVA, a receptor called GPR43. When TVA interact with this receptor, it’s like switching off a brake, allowing the immune cells to accelerate their tumour-fighting activities.
In the experiments, mice with melanoma (a form of skin cancer), colon cancer and breast cancer had significantly slower tumour growth if they were fed with TVA compared with those on a regular diet. Importantly, TVA didn’t seem to affect the weight or overall health of the mice, suggesting that its impact was specific to enhancing immune function.
This discovery is exciting for a few reasons. First, it gives us a new perspective on the age-old saying, “You are what you eat.” It turns out our dietary choices might have more impact on our health than we thought, especially concerning cancer resistance. Secondly, it opens up new avenues for cancer treatment. Imagine a future where your diet could be tailored to support your body’s natural defences against cancer! And thirdly, it gives me another reason to have a steak fried in butter for my tea! (Just don’t remind of the cost due to inflation - all paid subs welcome to fund my dinner tonight!)
So next time you feel guilty for buying a steak at the supermarket, don’t be. Next time, somebody lectures you for eating a bit too much cheese for dessert, ignore them. It is clear that the food we eat plays a crucial role in our body’s overall wellbeing and these foods can actually help fight off cancer.
Obviously, this was just an animal study and further analysis is needed, so don’t go throwing away all of your dietary health guidelines just yet. Nevertheless, it is clear that modern Western diets are making humans fatter and more sick, so this study paves the way for more fascinating research, blending nutrition with medical science to harness the power of diet in combating diseases like cancer.
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