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Western diet raises risk of colon cancer, says expert

April 22, 2009 by  

Western diet raises risk of colon cancer, says expert According to a University of Pittsburgh researcher, the typical Western diet – rich in meat and fats and low in complex carbohydrates -increases the risk of colon cancer.

Professor Stephen O’Keefe from the University of Pittsburgh presented his conclusions to the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate, UK, on March 31.

They are based on growing evidence that the composition of the diet influences the diversity of intestinal microbes, supporting the link between diet, colonic disease and colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults in the West.

In particular, those whose diet is rich in complex carbohydrates have significant populations of bacteria in their gut called Firmicutes which use undigested residues to synthesize short-chain fatty acids and vitamins such as folate and biotin that maintain colonic health.

By contrast, meat digestion produces sulphur, which decreases the activity of ‘good’ bacteria and increases the production of hydrogen sulphide and other possible carcinogens.

"Our investigations to date have focused on a small number of bacterial species and have therefore revealed but the tip of the iceberg," says Professor O’Keefe, adding that the colon harbors more than 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," he adds.

The study also demonstrates how simple dietary changes may prevent a serious illness that requires medical intervention.

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  • Laurie Bluth

    I wonder if the fact that most of the beef eaten in the States is grain fed instead of grass fed was taken into consieration. Those in the know know that the omega 3 ratio is much higher in grass fed beef, as well as many other factors. Also, was the highly processed food intake taken into consideration? I would suspect that those same folks who are eating the grain fed beef are eating diets high in processed foods and their incumbent chemical additives and low nutritional value.

  • s c

    Prof. O’Keefe is absolutely right. But, what he doesn’t say is that there is quality beef – and there is ‘beef.’ Quality beef can be a good source of nutrition. However, it is not necessary to eat it every day.
    MDs play no small role in what amounts to disinformation concerning what is and what is not good nutrition. The AMA wants us to believe that the “food pyramid” is all we need to know. This is the same group that looks at nutrition as an insignificant part of medical school training. Is it any wonder that we have to educate ourselves, to help compensate for medical and nutritional disinformation? WE are the ones who get to pay for NOT knowing.

  • s c

    I left out my central suggestion for correcting part of this travesty, to keep my feedback short. Namely, ALL US MDs should be required to have a solid year of training in nutrition before they can get through medical school. That way, if an American MD does NOT have that year of training, you will know that you are dealing with an overpaid wannabe elitist who does not know enough to keep you healthy.

    • Fed Up Gal in NM

      S C,

      Very good points….and a great suggestion (1 yr of dedicated nutritional training for all MD residents and those from the old school should have to take some sort of refresher nutritional training).

      Fed Up Gal


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