Research directions: Gut bacteria and cancer risk. What’s the connection?

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Research directions – Gut bacteria and cancer: the connection

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN has been the Nutrition Advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research over 25 years. We discussed new research directions and the nutrition/cancer connection. The first interview focused on some myths and known causes of cancer. We then had a 3-part series about new research directions—this is the second of three. (To view the video, scroll to the bottom or click here.)

Neily: The first research direction we talked about was our genes. So our genes play about 5 – 10% but lifestyle more so. What is the second one?
Karen: Another piece of how we can change our risk is finding out about the microbes that live in our gut called microbiota or the microbe population.
Neily: And that’s the bacteria you are talking about, right? There are trillions of bacteria—good bacteria.
Karen: That’s right. When you say ‘bacteria’, people automatically assume bacteria are bad. That’s not true. There are good ones and bad ones.
Neily: Yes.
Karen: And we can change the population of bacteria that live in our gut by what we eat. What we eat, they eat. So when we give them plenty of fiber—there are bacteria that actually produce compounds called butyrate which seems to actually be protective of the cells lining the colon reducing the risk of developing colon cancer. When we eat a diet that’s very high in red meat that tends to support the growth of another type of bacteria which is not so healthy.
Neily: Okay.
Karen: The evidence is that not only is this population of bacteria really significantly impacting our cancer risk but that we can change it. When you change your diet—with a matter of weeks—the kind of bacteria that are living in your gut change.
Neily: Really? Within weeks! If somebody goes to their registered dietitian to change their eating habits, they can decrease their risk for cancer with these good bacteria in the gut?
Karen: Yes. And the good thing is that it’s the same—the same healthy eating habits are acting in multiple ways. It’s promoting healthy population of bacteria in the gut. It’s also acting through other means of providing important antioxidant nutrients, affecting epigenetics that we talked about in the earlier video and in so many different ways. The same dietary choices, multiple benefits.
Neily: Great. So, eat a healthy diet can decrease your cancer risk with good bacteria. Very important. Good.  Again here with Karen Collins with the American Institute of Cancer Research. Thanks for watching Neily on Nutrition.


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