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This article by Michael Greger, M.D. claims:

We’ve known for 14 years that a single meal of meat, dairy, and eggs triggers an inflammatory reaction inside the body within hours of consumption.

I've heard similar claims (1) from many other plant-based diet advocates, such as John McDougall, M.D. and Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D.

Do animal proteins in our food cause inflammation (especially compared to plant proteins)?

Are there contradictory studies? (2)


(1) To be clear, the claim is that animal protein, in general, (as opposed to other protein, and as opposed to some specific sources of animal protein, such as red meat, or processed meat) causes inflammation.

(2) It's fairly easy to track down specific claims. The problem is that the field of nutrition, and medical science, in general, is fraught with weak evidence (epidemiological correlations) and contradictions, so it's the overall weight of the evidence that matters. It's usually addressed in meta-studies and such, if at all.

  • could you define inflammation? – aaaaaa Aug 31 at 4:28
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    As a general rule, we should look to the claimant, not the OP, for the definition. – Oddthinking Aug 31 at 9:41
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    @Oddthinking they don’t define it in the article linked. Only mention Cronh’s – aaaaaa Aug 31 at 12:38
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    @MaxB - Note that you've inflamed the passions of a couple of contributors. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 31 at 16:42
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    There are specific conditions, such as Crohn's, irritable bowel syndrome, Chronic Kidney Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer -- all of which include clinically diagnosable inflammation. The article you cite mentions "inflammatory reaction inside the body" which is not a medical term. – aaaaaa Aug 31 at 17:26
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According to Telegraph, inflammation occurs because of a sialic acid molecule called Neu5GC (N-Glycolylneuraminic acid) that triggers an immune response which causes inflammation.

Mice were used for the study which found that all the evidence linking Neu5Gc to cancer was circumstantial or indirectly predicted from experimental setups. According to the scientists, this is the first time they mimicked the exact situation in humans through feeding non-human Neu5Gc and inducing anti-Neu5Gc antibodies. This increased spontaneous cancer in mice.

This sugar can be found in red meats (pork, beef, and other livestock), cow’s milk and certain cheeses. Because the human body is not capable of producing this sugar naturally when the sugar is absorbed into the tissues, it is perceived as a foreign invader and activates the immune system. It is suspected that over time, the chronic inflammation caused by the immune system response plays a role in the development of cancer.

Thus, those who consume red meat on a regular basis are likely to suffer a stronger reaction than those who ingest red meat occasionally.

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    Eating just about anything will cause "inflammation". – Daniel R Hicks Sep 1 at 0:31
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    The "quoted" article - which the Telegraph doesn't quote correctly at all - says this: The resulting antigen–antibody interaction is hypothesized to generate or promote chronic inflammation or “xenosialitis,” which could contribute to carcinogenesis or to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation. Although attractive in principle, this hypothesis has not been proven in an in vivo system. – T. Sar Sep 1 at 1:37
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    The study also says: There are limitations in directly comparing this mouse study and the human situation. Unlike the case in humans, there was a single dietary source of Neu5Gc that was not varied in intake and the antibody production was not sustained throughout the lifetime of the animal. Also, the target organ for the adenoma-to-carcinoma sequence was the liver, not the colon. The obvious question arising from such experimental mouse studies is whether circulating anti-Neu5Gc antibodies correlate with cancer risk in human population studies. – T. Sar Sep 1 at 1:40
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    TL;DR: The study says this specific setup can cause a specific type of cancer in mice and explicitly says that it is hard to compare those results with humans. – T. Sar Sep 1 at 1:41
  • Although it is evident that the answer is yes, the question does not make it clear whether the author's interest is restricted to humans. – Elender Góis Gallas Sep 3 at 21:32

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