A new study by the University of North Carolina has demonstrated that a diet with dried plums impacts on gut bacteria reducing the level of colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, and is expected to cause about 49,700 deaths globally.
“Through our research, we were able to show that dried plums promote retention of beneficial bacteria throughout the colon, and by doing so they may reduce the risk of colon cancer,” said Dr. Nancy Turner, Texas AM AgriLife Research professor in the nutrition and food science department of Texas AM University, College Station.
“Our research explored the potential cancer-protective properties of dried plums using a well-established rat model of colon cancer,” she said. “Dried plums contain phenolic compounds, which have multiple effects on our health, including their ability to serve as antioxidants that can neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals that can damage our DNA.
“The hypothesis we tested in this experiment was that consumption of dried plums would promote retention of beneficial microbiota and patterns of microbial metabolism throughout the colon. If it did this, then it might also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.”
“The microbiota are involved in the health of the host organism through physical interactions and, indirectly, through their metabolism,” said Derek Seidel, a doctoral graduate student and research assistant for Turner who assisted in the study. “The rats were fed a control diet or a diet containing dried plums, and both diets were matched for total calories and macronutrient composition so that the effect due to diet would be attributed to compounds uniquely found in the dried plums.”
The researchers examined the contents and tissues from different segments of the intestinal tract and the dried plum diet significantly increased Bacteroidetes and reduced Firmicutes, (two major phyla of bacteria in the gut), in the distal colon without affecting the proportions found in the proximal colon. Animals consuming the control diet, (without dried plums), had a lower proportion of Bacteroidetes and increased Firmicutes in the distal colon. Rats consuming dried plums had significantly reduced numbers of aberrant crypts, aberrant crypt foci and high-multiplicity aberrant crypt foci compared to control rats.
“These aberrant crypt foci are one of the earliest observable precancerous lesions and are often considered to be a strong indicator for cancer development,” Seidel said.
The researchers associated the increased retention of beneficial microbiota and reduced incidence of precancerous lesions with the dried plum diet.