HIV Foundation Health “Cancer cells are fed” – underestimated health risks lurk in meat and sausage

“Cancer cells are fed” – underestimated health risks lurk in meat and sausage

Iron deficiency is often discussed. There is hardly any talk about the opposite, the frequent overloading with heme iron, the iron form made from red meat and sausage. It promotes the common diseases of diabetes, cancer and arteriosclerosis. FOCUS Online shows how you can meet your iron needs in a healthy way.

The trace element iron is indispensable for a number of vital metabolic functions in the body. As a component of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, it supplies every body cell with oxygen. Iron deficiency, which manifests itself in anemia, exhaustion, susceptibility to infection, affects around 20 percent of women and ten percent of men in Germany. The higher risk for women is explained by menstruation and decreases accordingly when the childbearing phase of life is over.

Many people have an excess of iron – and know nothing about it

Iron deficiency is known and many nutrition-conscious people pay attention to adequate iron intake. However, significantly more people could have anything but an iron deficiency, namely too much of this trace element. Probably very few people know about it, although it carries a high risk of disease.

Heme iron and non-heme iron: these are the differences

First and foremost, it is important for these relationships – there are the two known, different forms of iron, only one of which can be hazardous to health:

1. Heme iron , i.e. bivalent iron (Fe), mainly found in red meat and sausage. Heme iron has a high bioavailability, the body can use at least 20 percent from food.

2. Non-heme iron , trivalent iron (Fe3), from plant-based nutrient suppliers such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, oil seeds and various types of vegetables. Non-heme iron must first be oxidized to some form of Fe in the small intestine in order for the body to use it. In this way, only around five percent of the iron from food comes into play.

The iron requirement per day is 15 milligrams for women and 10 milligrams for men.

Underestimated health risk heme iron

What is certain is that most people in industrialized nations have at least a sufficient supply of the trace element. Due to our meat and sausage-heavy diet, a large part is even oversupplied with heme iron, and thus risks diseases. Various studies indicate these relationships .

“We assume that too much heme iron can have negative health consequences through eating meat,” explains Matthias Riedl, board member of the Association of German Nutritionists (BDEM) and diabetologist, nutritionist, internist, managing director and medical director at Medicum Hamburg.

The human organism is not prepared for high meat consumption

Normally, a complex mechanism of substances in the liver and intestines controls the iron level. If too much iron storage protein ferritin is measured, the body slows down absorption. “This does not work adequately with large amounts of heme iron, the body continues to absorb it, simply because this form of iron is extremely easy to use,” says the expert.

The nutritionist explains that the cause lies in our evolutionary history. Up until two million years ago, humans were purely plant-eaters, only then did they add animal consumption. That was sometimes more, mostly less meat – definitely a lot less than is regularly eaten today. The human organism is not prepared for this.

High consumption of heme iron feeds cancer cells

The excess iron is then deposited in the pancreas, liver and spleen, which can put stress on the organs. But that’s not all. “Heme iron can promote mutations via certain chemical compounds – for example in intestinal cells, but also in other cells,” warns the internist.

In addition, these compounds have a cytotoxic effect, so they can not only change cells, but also damage them. “And cancer cells, on the other hand, are properly fed by heme iron, so to speak,” says the expert. Malignant cells have a high demand for this trace element. A high consumption of heme iron means that existing cancer cells grow better and are stronger against the immune system.

Meat lovers are more likely to develop diabetes and arteriosclerosis

In addition to the connection between heme iron and cancer, many nutritional studies have shown two other negative effects of the “meat iron”:

1. Numerous studies show that people who consume a lot of sausage and meat are particularly likely to have type 2 diabetes .

2. In addition, this dietary preference often leads to arteriosclerosis , with the well-known secondary diseases of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

“If people don’t eat ‘appropriately’, they get sick”

The higher the meat consumption, the higher the risks for cancer, diabetes and arteriosclerosis. What actually stands behind it: “If people do not eat ‘species-appropriate’, i.e. eat too much red meat and sausage and thus too much heme iron, they will get sick,” warns Matthias Riedl. It is well known that primitive peoples who still eat originally – eat very little meat and no sausage – do not have arteriosclerosis at all, for example.

Trivalent iron from plants is converted into bivalent iron

So heme iron has a rather negative effect on the body. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, does not pose these health risks – but is converted into bivalent iron in the body in order to make it available. Doesn’t it then become as unfavorable as bivalent heme iron? “No, because the trivalent iron from plants is converted into a bivalent iron, but not into heme iron,” explains the expert.

Providing the body with healthy iron – vegetables and fruits with non-heme iron

In order to provide the body with sufficient iron without meat, there are a number of plant-based foods that have a high content of non-heme iron, such as:

  • Lentils around 2.7mg / 100gr
  • Chickpeas around 2.7mg / 100gr
  • Peas 1,5mg / 100gr
  • Spinach 3,6mg / 100gr
  • Chanterelles 6.5mg / 100gr
  • Elderberry 1.6mg / 100gr
  • Pine nuts 9.2mg / 100gr
  • Millet 6.9mg / 100gr
  • Flaxseed, ground 8,4mg / 100gr
  • Amaranth 8.9mg / 100gr

Spinach contains a comparatively high amount of iron for a plant-based food, but at the same time the substances it contains can prevent it from being absorbed by the body. Beans or lentils are therefore better suited as a vegetarian source of iron.

Intelligently upgrade the bioavailability of iron from vegetables and fruits

Sure, none of these foods provide as much iron as meat. “The availability of iron from plant-based foods can be increased by cleverly combining the ingredients in a meal,” says Matthias Riedl. Vitamin C, for example, improves absorption. Suggestion for a corresponding daily plan:

  • In the morning: oatmeal / muesli with fruit, a glass of orange or lemon juice for breakfast,
  • Lunch: millet salad with paprika (the pods are extremely rich in vitamin C),
  • In the evening: whole wheat pasta with broccoli or parsley pesto

Coffee and tea inhibit iron availability

However, there are also plant substances that have an inhibiting effect on iron absorption. These are phytates and polyphenols, for example, these plant substances are contained in coffee and tea. So avoid these drinks during, immediately before and after a meal containing iron. In wholemeal products, on the other hand, the phytate content plays a lesser role, as they convince with their high iron content.

Cover your iron requirement healthily, certain meats are also allowed

“Those who follow a purely vegetarian / vegan diet can still get too little iron, especially women are at risk here,” says the expert.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women in particular should take preparations if they have a proven iron deficiency. Otherwise there is a ‘species-appropriate’ solution for everyone: That means a small, moderate meat meal per week, preferably poultry meat, because white meat is not statistically associated with the disease risks mentioned.

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These tricks help against the bellyThese tricks help against the belly

From the age of 30, German men are growing rapidly. It doesn’t look good and is a health hazard. Nevertheless, the stronger sex has difficulties with weight loss programs. FOCUS Online explains why this is so and which diet works best for men.

Surveys by the Federal Statistical Office show that Germany’s men are getting fatter year after year: If the body mass index is used as a benchmark, 62 percent of men are currently overweight (BMI over 25) and 18 percent are obese (BMI over 30) . And while only a third of the 20 to 25 year olds are overweight, the proportion among the over 50 year olds rises to more than 70 percent. Among women, 43 percent carry too many pounds around – but the proportion of people who are overweight shrinks slightly every year.

Visceral belly fat is a health risk

But while many of the overweight women have the word “lose weight” at least in the back of their minds, the term “diet” bounces off most men. Somehow, around 30, they gradually lose their firm body, but they feel comfortable with their figure, which they do not find too fat at all. Men seem to be more tolerant of their paunch than women of their love handles.

This has nothing to do with reason, because it is now known that so-called visceral belly fat in particular poses a health risk. The metabolically active tissue releases inflammatory substances and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and erectile dysfunction.

The traditional image of the man promotes obesity

Papa gets the biggest piece of meat because a man has to eat properly – this age-old belief persists in Germany. And so men eat an average of 1.1 kilograms of meat every week. That is twice as much as for women and twice as much as recommended for a healthy diet. In addition, there are plenty of carbohydrates in the form of pasta, potatoes or white bread, sausage, butter and cheese – and the plates are often scooped up on the “all-you-can-eat” principle.

Many men get fat because they eat and drink too much of the wrong things, for example six times as much beer as women. And they stay fat because it is very difficult to change established eating habits.

Men need a lot of motivation to diet

Doctors and nutritionists find time and again that men rarely lose weight because they find themselves too fat. It almost always takes an external spark for the average man to change something in his lifestyle, for example when the doctor diagnoses diabetes or a heart problem, or when a relationship breaks up.

This was also the result of an evaluation of two major diet programs by the British health authority NHS. And there were even more men-specific issues on the subjectLose weight:

  • Only ten percent of men had received a referral from their doctor for the programs.
  • But: Once men start with such a measure, they develop ambition to lose weight and get out less often than women.
  • Men are more likely to respond to programs that avoid the word “diet” and place great emphasis on exercise.

Proper diet and exercise

Weight loss results mainly from diet changes. However, if men also expand their muscle cushion in the process, the effect is increased because of the high energy requirements of the muscles. Men should exercise all muscle groups in the body and not just squint at the fast-growing biceps.

A sporting program that includes a mix of strength and endurance is often better accepted by men than women. Sport should be fun in any case, because after actively losing weight, exercise can stabilize the desired weight – without the man having to constantly watch the calories.

What men should eat for weight loss is no different from a diet for women:

1. less red / fatty meat, sausage and animal fat

2. more vegetables

3. less white flour and sugar (carbohydrates)

4. more white / lean meat, tofu, or legumes (protein)

5. no alcohol

Intermittent fasting – as invented for men

Intermittent fasting is a suitable diet method for those who like it simple and uncomplicated. With the simple principle, there are time windows for food intake, which alternate with fasting episodes. The fat metabolism is activated, excess pounds can melt – especially if you keep an eye on the calories.

  • The popular “16: 8” method is suitable as a permanent nutritional principle: During the day, people eat in an 8-hour window, two to three meals without snacks in between. The nocturnal eating break is extended to 16 hours – ideal for men who do not like breakfast.
  • The “5: 2” interval fasting allows you to eat normally on five days, then there are a maximum of 500 calories on two days.
  • The “1: 1” method is considered to be the most difficult to stick to: alternately eat one day and one fast.

For men (and women), the combination of two protein shakes and a normal meal a day is a good start to losing weight. US presenter and comedian Jimmy Kimmel lost over twelve kilos before he switched to intermittent fasting “5: 2”.

The man’s body is the best weapon against obesity

Once men have decided to lose weight, they enjoy a great advantage over women. Men are taller, heavier and have more muscles – as a result, their bodies burn more energy even when they are resting.

If they also save calories, they lose more weight and lose weight faster than women. This was shown by a study with 2000 male and female participants who had exactly the same general conditions. After eight weeks, the men saw 16 percent more weight loss. Their bodies cling less to fat deposits, which in women are a stubborn reservoir for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

What really helps against joint painWhat really helps against joint pain

Natural active ingredients such as devil’s claw or NSAID drugs and opioids: These drugs are supposed to relieve joint pain in osteoarthritis. But what helps whom? FOCUS Online explains which treatments work for joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and what side effects they have.

  • Osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on bones and joint capsules.
  • Five million Germans suffer from the consequences.
  • Briefly explained: which osteoarthritis treatment helps whom?

If the joints hurt, it is usually osteoarthritis : it is the most common of all joint diseases. About five million Germans suffer from it. Osteoarthritis occurs when bones, ligaments, tendons and joint capsules wear out.

This is important to differentiate the disease from rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation is the cause here.

This is important for osteoarthritis treatment

“Arthrosis is a disease that runs in waves,” explains Johannes Flechtenmacher, President of the Professional Association of Orthopedists and Trauma Surgeons. Less painful phases alternate with those that torment those affected.

The aim of the treatment is to relieve the pain on the one hand and to maintain or restore the ability to move on the other.

Osteoarthritis needs combination treatments

Ideally, the doctor combines non-drug treatments such as physiotherapy, nutritional recommendations, and hot or cold applications with medication. These are mainly used in the acute pain phase.

“In the less painful episodes, patients should try to avoid medication,” explains Flechtenmacher. In principle, movement in particular is an important component of therapy. His motto: “Move a lot, load little.”

Five osteoarthritis treatments put to the test:

1. NSAIDs: cortisone-free pain relievers

This is how the drug works: The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the classic all-rounders in pain relief. They have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, but do not contain cortisone.

Medicines include ibuprofen, diclofenac, or naproxen. They block two important enzymes that play a role in the sensation of pain: Cyclooxygenase (COX) isoenzymes I and II.

The so-called Cox II inhibitors are therefore well suited to treat acute joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.

NSAIDs also have an antipyretic effect.

Side effects: Gastrointestinal complaints and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases are among the risks of NSAIDs. “That is why it is particularly important to tailor the osteoarthritis treatment to the patient,” explains orthopedist Flechtenmacher.

For example, ibuprofen is not suitable for patients with kidney problems, and diclofenac hits the liver. Both drugs also have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system. Naproxin is therefore better suited for heart disease patients with osteoarthritis.

2. Opioids

This is how the drug works: Opioids are effective remedies that are used against severe joint pain. By attacking the opioid receptors, they prevent pain from developing and being transmitted.

Tramadol is one of the morphine-like drugs. “Morphines are not suitable for treating acute phases of pain in osteoarthritis,” says Flechtenmacher. This is especially true for plasters. Morphine should only be used for chronic treatment if no other therapy is helping the patient.

Side effects: Many sufferers suffer from the exhaustion caused by morphine. Especially in older people, opioids aggravate many age problems. These include, for example, constipation and dizziness. This also increases the risk of frail patients falling.

3. Hyaluronic acid

In addition to drugs that directly combat pain, there are active ingredients that intervene in the mechanism of the disease. A typical representative is hyluronic acid.

This is how the drug works: Doctors inject hyaluronic acid into the joint to treat osteoarthritis. That’s the only way it works. “In contrast, it is pointless in tablet form, as is sometimes offered,” explains Flechtenmacher. Only in the joint does the drug help the knees or fingers move more smoothly.

With regard to evidence-based studies, hyaluronic acid should be viewed critically, adds the doctor. For example, the relief of osteoarthritis on knock knees or bow legs, where it is biomechanically induced, works less well than on straight legs.

Nevertheless, medical professionals have high hopes for hyaluronic acid. They are currently researching the structure of cartilage: “There are actually very promising developments in which hyaluronic acid is combined with stem cells or other molecules,” says Flechtenmacher. Damaged cartilage structures could be rebuilt.

Side effects: As a rule, osteoarthritis patients tolerate hyaluronic acid very well. Since it is injected directly into the joint, there is the usual risk of infection from the method.

4. Natural medicine

This is how the treatment works: Natural active ingredients such as nettle leaves, willow bark or devil’s claw should also relieve pain. The latter contains, among other things, harpagoside. Similar to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, they are supposed to inhibit the formation of the pain messenger prostaglandin.

“So far, however, nothing has been identified in evidence-based studies that proves the effectiveness of the natural active ingredients,” explains Flechtenmacher.

Side effects: They are dependent on the natural medicine product. The instruction leaflet of the devil’s claw, for example, warns of possible gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, vomiting as well as dizziness and headaches or rashes.

5. Acupuncture

This is how the treatment works: As with natural active ingredients, evidence of how acupuncture works for osteoarthritis has not yet been provided in scientific studies.

On the contrary. An Australian study looked at the effects of acupuncture. The results published in the “JAMA” magazine showed: Acupuncture with needles or laser has no relevant effect on pain and function in patients over 50 with knee osteoarthritis and moderate or severe chronic pain.

However, acupuncture helps some osteoarthritis sufferers. Johannes Flechtenmacher, for example, relies on the alternative form of treatment

  • light and irregular pain
  • when many illnesses in the affected person rule out other drugs.

In addition, there are many patients who benefit from the doctor’s attention and empathy alone.

Side effects: The symptoms can get worse at first, writes the German Pain Society on acupuncture . And adds: “Occasionally there are slight bruises or bruises, and brief circulatory reactions can also occur during acupuncture treatment.”

In any case, those affected should not treat their joint pain independently, but should always have it checked out by a specialist.

Biliary cancer often causes no symptoms – and is therefore usually recognized too lateBiliary cancer often causes no symptoms – and is therefore usually recognized too late

Gallbladder cancer in particular only leads to symptoms in an advanced stage. Why this is so, what role gallstones play – and why the prognosis so far has often been unfavorable.

Biliary cancer, with around 5500 new cases per year, is one of the rare forms of cancer, but it is particularly risky. According to popular opinion, the tumor causes almost no early symptoms and is therefore usually only recognized late when an operation is no longer possible and the tumor has already metastasized.

Biliary cancer – important: inside or outside the liver

The fact is, however, that the colloquial term biliary cancer, medically cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), covers different forms. First of all, there is gallbladder cancer, which forms in the gallbladder, which in turn is embedded in the liver.

Secondly, a carcinoma can form in the bile ducts, which are not only located within the liver and direct the bile to storage in the gallbladder, but also away from the gallbladder, which lead the bile to the small intestine.

“Depending on the localization, we differentiate between intra- and extrahepatic carcinoma, i.e. those that develop inside or outside the liver,” explains Arndt Vogel, spokesman for the “Hepatobiliary Tumors” working group of the Internal Oncology Working Group (AIO) and head of the Visceral Oncological Center Hannover Medical School (MHH).

The risk of developing cholangiocarcinoma increases with age. Overall, the incidence of intrahepatic carcinomas is increasing, while that of extrahepatic carcinomas falls somewhat.

Risk factors for biliary cancer

An exception in connection with cholangiocarcinoma is Southeast Asia, especially countries like Thailand. This cancer often occurs there because certain parasites can inflame the biliary tract. Chronic inflammation plays an important role in the development of biliary cancer.

The following risk factors come into play in the western industrialized nations, but they are also closely related to inflammation:

  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis, an inflammation of the bile ducts that mostly affects men.
  • Cysts in the bile and bile ducts, including Caroli’s syndrome; they increase the risk of biliary cancer.
  • Smoking, because the substances in smoke are known to be carcinogenic, are not only excreted via the kidneys and urine, but are also collected, processed and passed on in the bile.
  • Gallstones; However, only when they cause problems, i.e. inflame the bile, do they promote the development of cancer.

Gallstones and biliary cancer

Around ten percent of Germans are said to have gallstones, and the risk increases with age. “But very few of those affected develop cholangiocarcinoma. This cancer is very rare, ”says the medicine professor reassuringly.

The gallbladder should only be removed if the stones cause problems, i.e. colic and inflammation.

Symptoms appear differently late, but are similar

The signs of gallbladder inflammation caused by stones are somewhat similar to those of cholangiocarcinoma (CCA).

So biliary cancer can cause the following signs:

  • Jaundice (jaundice)
  • nausea
  • Vomit
  • Pain in the left upper abdomen.

The location of the carcinoma is crucial for the stage at which symptoms appear:

  • Intrahepatic carcinoma triggers these clear signs quite late, “because the liver doesn’t hurt when a tumor grows there,” explains the expert.
  • Extrahepatic carcinoma, on the other hand, usually quickly means that the bile can no longer flow into the intestine. Bile congestion and jaundice are relatively early signs of this type of cancer.

That is why bile duct cancer that grows outside the liver is usually diagnosed earlier – but it is difficult to operate because of its often complicated location next to blood vessels and does not make the generally difficult situation with cholangiocarcinoma any easier, the oncologist limits the associated high expectations.

Diagnosis of cancer of the gallbladder and bile ducts

Doctors use cross-sectional image diagnostics such as MRI and CT. “This allows the suspicion to be clarified and the staging, i.e. stage and spread, to be identified,” explains Vogel.

The histological examination provides additional details about the tumor, whereby the samples in gallbladder cancer are relatively easy to obtain. However, this is more difficult with extrahepatic tumors because the biliary tract is often narrow and winding. The examination is carried out through an endoscope, the method here is called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP examination).

Are there any less invasive methods? Ultrasound, carried out endoscopically through the stomach from the inside or from the outside, can also be informative, says the cancer specialist. However, the methods of first choice are MRI and CT.

Treatment of biliary cancer – surgery not always possible

If the suspicion has been confirmed and the results of the examination enable the tumor to be classified, the goal is to remove the carcinoma surgically. “However, as already described, this is sometimes difficult due to the location of the tumors,” reports Vogel. However, the surgical techniques have improved significantly in recent years.

The standard treatment for patients with advanced tumors is chemotherapy, with a combination of gemcitabine and cisplatin.

In a palliative situation, i.e. to lengthen survival time and / or improve quality of life, local therapies such as selective internal radiotherapy (SIRT, radioembolization) are currently used in clinical studies . Radioactive microspheres are guided to the tumor via an inguinal catheter, its cells are destroyed and healthy tissue is spared. The first results show that for some patients many months can be gained with this.

The prognosis for biliary cancer is poor …

Despite all these possibilities, few patients can be cured. Even if the tumor could be completely removed in the healthy, the recurrence rate is still relatively high. “60 to 80 percent of the tumors come back,” reports Vogel. Because the tumors spread very early.

… but with the therapy “a small revolution is emerging”

This is the bad news. In fact, these prospects could improve in the future. The oncologist says: “Because a small revolution is taking place here at the moment.” The interest of pharmaceutical companies in this rare cancer has increased significantly, and intensive work is being carried out on the development of new drugs.

The reason for this change is the fact that it has been discovered that numerous genetic changes occur in these tumors and thus allow a molecular, i.e. targeted therapy. There have been many studies on this topic for a few years now.

Two developments are particularly promising:

1. Inhibitors against IDH1 mutations , from which patients with a corresponding cholangiocarcinoma can clearly benefit.

2. Inhibitors against FGFR2 , fusions, MSI, NTRK and others.

“There are currently a number of very promising active ingredients in the test that have the various genetic changes as a starting point,” reports the oncologist. How much these new therapies could improve the treatment of biliary cancer becomes clear when one realizes that 40 to 50 percent of all these tumors, especially intrahepatic ones, show such genetic changes and are therefore suitable for targeted, molecular therapy.

Prevention Of Bile Cancer – Quit Smoking!

However, it will be some time before the new therapies are available to all patients. Until then, it is still true that biliary cancer is difficult to treat and the prognosis is unfavorable.

This makes prevention all the more important. To what extent can everyone prevent this tumor – apart from the advice not to smoke, which is so important with regard to many other diseases? The expert also has one recommendation in particular:

Get gallstones cleared up if they’re causing problems. However, this does not mean that everyone who has gallstones should be afraid: Gallstones are considered to be risk factors for gallbladder cancer, but only one percent of all gallstone carriers develop this tumor.