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Carb-Colon Cancer Link Discovered

Aug. 21, 2014|197 views
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This week I've been delving into the mysterious world of the microbes that make life possible for us by helping us digest our food. These diverse communities of various species of bacteria—collectively called the gut microbiome—are finally stepping into the light, so to speak, thanks to advances in technology.

Among other things, it's becoming increasingly clear that cultivating the right mixture of bacteria, and keeping them happy, is an important step towards keeping yourself happy and healthy. Literally: The gut microbiome impacts everything from immune system function to feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Probiotic foods, like yogurt, are beneficial, because they can resupply certain beneficial bacteria that may have been lost due to poor diet, illness, or the use of antibiotics. Plant foods are beneficial, because they supply the dietary fiber that these little creatures prefer and need to thrive. By supporting a healthy microbiome, you're also crowding out other, less friendly bacteria that might otherwise cause problems.

Now research has shown yet another link between good diet and the health of the microbiome. And it's not just of academic interest. As it turns out, there's a link between a diet heavy in carbohydrates—namely a typical Western diet—and the risk of colorectal cancer. Carbohydrate-rich diets have long been linked to a greater risk of certain types of colorectal cancer. Now scientists think they know why.

Gut microbes metabolize carbohydrates from the diet, producing a fatty acid called butyrate. Among individuals with a gene that predisposes them to a certain form of colon cancer, butyrate fuels cell proliferation and tumor growth. Although the research was conducted with specially bred mice, it suggests that humans who have a family history of hereditary colorectal cancer could significantly decrease their chances of developing tumors if they reduce their intake of carbohydrates. In the typical Western diet, carbs account for about half of all calories.

Antoaneta Belcheva, Thergiory Irrazabal, Susan J. Robertson, Catherine Streutker, Heather Maughan, Stephen Rubino, Eduardo H. Moriyama, Julia K. Copeland, Sachin Kumar, Blerta Green, Kaoru Geddes, Rossanna C. Pezo, William W. Navarre, Michael Milosevic, Brian C. Wilson, Stephen E. Girardin, Thomas M.S. Wolever, Winfried Edelmann, David S. Guttman, Dana J. Philpott, Alberto Martin. Gut Microbial Metabolism Drives Transformation of Msh2-Deficient Colon Epithelial Cells. Cell, 2014; 158 (2): 288 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.04.051

Tags:  cancer risks, prevention, genetics
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