Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.

Ingestion of DNA damaged by cooking as a new mechanism of carcinogenicity.

As the saying goes “tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are”, the relationship between lifestyle habits, including diet, and the risk of developing cancer is well established. In addition to being a risk factor for certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes (1), diet is also associated with the development of cancers of the digestive system. Indeed, certain cooked foods have a higher content of carcinogenic molecules, such as acrylamide in fried foods (2), while cooking meat at high temperatures on the BBQ leads to the synthesis of trace amounts of heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) (3). Cells in direct contact and repeatedly exposed to these highly reactive agents can end up accumulating genetic mutations over time.

Eric T. Kool’s team at Stanford University in California has studied the impact of high-temperature cooking on the DNA contained inside the food we eat (4). Their study is based on two facts: firstly, under extreme temperature conditions, DNA can form abnormal nucleic acids (5); secondly, the food we eat, especially meat, contains a significant amount of DNA (6). Since our bodies naturally recuperate ingested nucleic acids, a less energy-consuming process than synthesizing them de novo, their hypothesis is that the absorption of abnormal nucleic acids present in overheated food could be associated with the onset of mutations and cancer. Using a mouse model, they observed that the more a food is heated to a high temperature, the more it is associated with the development of tumors. Another interesting finding was that the more DNA the food contained, the greater the impact.

Further studies will be needed to confirm whether the same results can be observed in humans. However, this research team has highlighted a new potential oncogenic mechanism linked to diet, and more specifically to meat consumption. In basic research, it’s important to keep investigating and coming up with innovative new hypotheses.

Whether in oncology or other areas of research, Medimabs’ team of experts will be happy to help you develop tailor-made tools to detect new targets for your studies.

Written by
MédiMabs’ Team
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