Wait! Meat can prevent cancer?


But don't change your diet until you’ve talked this over with your doctor

If you’ve been holding off on having a big fat steak because of what it might do to your health, you may want to let that cow back in the kitchen.  New discoveries about fat in meat and dairy suggest that, regardless of how they affect your heart, they might help fight cancer.  

Researchers have found a natural fat called trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), found in beef, dairy, and even breast milk can boost your immune response against cancer.

The scoop is simple: People with higher TVA levels responded better to a specific cancer treatment (immunotherapy), suggesting TVA might enhance its effectiveness. 

Studies have also shown that TVA activates CD8+ T cells, the supercharged and crucial soldiers in your immune system that hunt down and destroy cancer cells.

Still skeptical? Ok, consider this: Mice fed with extra TVA had smaller and slower-growing tumors, especially for melanoma and colon cancer. 

And this isn’t something crazy that a hippie cattle rancher in Northern California came up with, either. There is solid, real-world evidence that cancer patients with higher TVA levels responded better to CAR-T therapy, and TVA made a cancer drug more effective in lab tests. Jing Chen, PhD at the University of Chicago, who led the study, had this to say:

“There are many studies trying to decipher the link between diet and human health, and it’s very difficult to understand the underlying mechanisms because of the wide variety of foods people eat. But if we focus on just the nutrients and metabolites derived from food, we begin to see how they influence physiology and pathology,” Chen said. 

“By focusing on nutrients that can activate T cell responses, we found one that actually enhances anti-tumor immunity by activating an important immune pathway.”

Don't run for the burgers just yet 

Breaking it down to you and me at the dinner table, Dirt to Dinner explains that balance is key and that means a well-rounded diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. TVA is just one piece of the puzzle.


The quality of the meat you buy matters, too, so choose lean meat and low-fat dairy products to avoid health risks associated with overconsumption.

The last thing is that you should talk to your doctor about this – “Especially those with specific health concerns, such as high cholesterol or heart disease,” said Dirt to Dinner’s Hailey Phillip. 

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