1.6 million Americans are reportedly allergic to red meat, meaning their ability to digest it is compromised and they have a higher risk of heart disease as a result. A study has found that as many as 1.6 million Americans are unable to digest red meat due to a sugar complex called alpha-Gal, which results in a build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Diets high in red meat have been linked to a list of health problems, such as cardiovascular issues, diabetes and some forms of cancer. However, a new toxin has been discovered as a reason for being unable to digest red meat by the University of Virginia Health System.
The allergen, called alpha-Gal, is a sugar complex that humans don’t produce and the human body is then designed to fight back against the alpha-Gal sugar molecules. Bites from Lone Star ticks can trigger the allergy, and have been linked to the cause in some people where this type of tick is more prevalent.
Unlike other allergic reactions to food, the symptoms are not hives, wheezing or breathing problems. Symptoms indicating an allergic reaction are digestive problems, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling and occasional itching.
Coleen McNamara M.D., professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Virginia Health System, and study leader, said: “This novel finding from a small group of subjects from Virginia raises the intriguing possibility that allergy to red meat may be an under-recognized factor in heart disease.
“These preliminary findings underscore the need for further clinical studies in larger populations from diverse geographic regions and additional laboratory work.”
The study took samples from 118 adults, where alpha-Gal antibodies were found in 26 per cent of participants, which indicates sensitivity to red meat. The results from this have projected that one in every hundred, in some areas of the US, may be intolerant to red meat.
Further studies need to be carried out to assess in more detail the scale of people who may be allergic to red meat.