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Colon Cancer Caused by Western Diet

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: western diet, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A so-called Western diet eaten by the majority of Americans and many Europeans is loaded with meat, fat and processed foods. It also lacks complex carbohydrates. Put these facts together and you have a perfect recipe for developing colon cancer, Professor Stephen O'Keefe from the University of Pittsburgh, stated before the Society for General Microbiology meeting at Harrogate International Centre in the UK on March 31.

So what specifically is the connection between diet, colon cancer and other diseases of the colon? According to Dr. O'Keefe, evidence has accumulated showing foods directly influence the amount and kind of microbes in the human gut. "Our investigations to date have focused on a small number of bacterial species and have therefore revealed but the tip of the iceberg. Our colons harbor over 800 bacterial species and 7,000 different strains. The characterization of their properties and metabolism can be expected to provide the key to colonic health and disease," Dr. O'Keefe told scientists attending the conference.

In a statement to the media, he explained that when people eat a healthy diet with lots of complex carbohydrates, they have significant internal populations of bacteria called Firmicutes. These micro-organisms take undigested residues of both proteins and starches in the colon and turn them into short-chain fatty acids and vitamins, including folate and biotin, which maintain a healthy colon. One type of these fatty acids, called butyrate, not only keeps gut walls healthy but also keeps cell growth and differentiation under control -- probably the reason butyrate has been shown in human studies to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

However, gut microbes can also make health-harming toxins from food residues, too. If you eat a lot of meat, for example, sulphur is produced that hampers the activity of "good" bacteria. The result, Dr. O'Keefe pointed out, is an increase in the production of hydrogen sulphide and other suspected carcinogens. "A diet rich in fiber and resistant starch encourages the growth of good bacteria and increases production of short chain fatty acids which lessen the risk of cancer, while a high meat and fat diet reduces the numbers of these good bacteria," he said in a press statement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. The American Cancer Society (ACS) web site states that approximately 108,070 new cases of colon cancer (53,760 in men and 54,310 in women) and 40,740 new cases of rectal cancer (23,490 in men and 17,250 in women) were diagnosed in 2008.

"Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults in Westernized communities," said Professor O'Keefe. "Our results suggest that a diet that maintains the health of the colon wall is also one that maintains general body health and reduces heart disease".

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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