Frequent and consistent consumption of red meat and cow's milk makes the body more susceptible to a virulent form of E. coli which can cause bloody diarrhoea and even death, say researchers from the U.S and Australia.
In this new study, the researchers examined the cells in the human digestive tract and kidney to determine what happens when that are frequently exposed to a specific sugar called Neu5Gc found in cow's milk and red meat that may be infected with E. coli.
The researchers found that toxins from E. coli would only bind to tissues that were flushed with the Neu5Gc sugar molecule found in red meat and cow's milk. Chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables do contain this type of sugar molecule.
"The toxins couldn't bind to the human tissues in the absence of the sugar, but when it was fed to the human cells, there was strong binding and increase in virulence and toxicity of the E. coli toxin," says the study author.
The sugars can reside anywhere along the human digestive tract, although they tend to concentrate in the stomach and kidneys -- sometimes for up to a few days.
According to the research team, drinking milk or eating a lot of red meat would replenish supply of those sugars making them present in our digestive tract all the time.
These findings were published in the October 30, 2008 issue of the journal Nature.
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