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Red meat, sugar may be causing colorectal cancer in younger adults – Research

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New research adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that environmental factors, including the consumption of red meat and sugar, may contribute to the rising occurrence of colorectal cancer among young people.

The research, according to, revealed that individuals under 50 years old diagnosed with colorectal cancer had lower levels of citrate, a by-product of food conversion to energy, compared to older patients.

The study also found significant differences in protein and carbohydrate metabolism, indicating that the consumption of red meat and sugar could potentially play a role in the development of colorectal cancer in younger age groups.

A new study is suggesting that eating red meat and sugar may contribute to colorectal cancer among young people.

According to the researchers, there has been a significant surge in the diagnosis of colorectal cancer among younger individuals over the past two to three decades.

The exact reason behind this alarming trend has remained unclear, as the majority of cases are not associated with genetic or hereditary factors, even among the younger population.

However, with the recent data obtained, there is now supporting evidence for the hypothesis that environmental factors may be responsible for this increase.

Researchers also discovered that individuals below the age of 50, who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, had reduced levels of citrate. Citrate is produced during the conversion of food into energy and was found to be lower in comparison to older individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

The findings of the research were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on June 3, 2023.

The study is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

A senior author of this research and a gastrointestinal oncologist at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Suneel Kamath, told Medical News Today that, “Our study used a technology called metabolomics, the study of breakdown products and production building blocks for our bodies, to look for differences in colorectal cancer in young people versus people that are older that developed colorectal cancer.”

“Because metabolomics measures how each individual interacts with the exposures in our environment like diet, air quality, etc., it is a way to bridge the gap between our nature (determined by genetics) and nurture (determined by our exposures). We found that a carbohydrate breakdown product called citrate (also called citric acid) is found at higher levels in older people with colorectal cancer compared to young-onset colorectal cancer.”

To conduct their study, the research team utilised samples from the Cleveland Clinic BioRepository, focusing on patients diagnosed with stage I–IV colorectal cancer.

They categorised the patients into two groups based on age: those younger than 50 years and those older than 60 years.

The study included 170 participants diagnosed with colorectal cancer, with 66 individuals having young-onset colorectal cancer and 104 having average-onset colorectal cancer.

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