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Lactobacillus bacteria may reduce toxicity of aflatoxins or liver cancer risk

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By David Liu, Ph.D. and editing by Elizabeth Hutchinson

Thursday June 16, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study suggests that some Lactobacillus bacteria may help relieve oxidative stress induced by hepatotoxins called aflatoxins.

The study in the May 31, 2011 issue of Toxicology showed that ingestion of Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) or Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) helped improve a spectrum of biochemical parameters in rats exposed to alfatoxins.

For the study, A. S. Hathout and colleagues at the National Research Center in Cairo, Egypt gave female Sprague Dawley rats a diet with aflatoxins at a dose of 3 mg/kg body weight. Some rats received L. casei or L. reuteri at a dose of 10 ml/kg body weight for four weeks.

The researchers found that rats exposed to aflatoxins alone reduced their food intake and serum antioxidant capacity, and lowered their body weight.

The toxins also significantly increased levels of "transaminase, alkaline phosphatase cholesterol, triglycerides, total lipids, creatinine, uric acid, and nitric oxide in serum, and lipid peroxidation in the liver and kidney," as the authors reported.

Treatment with Lactobacillus bacteria, particularly L. reuteri, on the other hand, effectively improved all the biochemical or physiological parameters.

Previous studies, according to the authors, have already showed that lactic acid-producing bacteria can remove mycotoxins from aqueous solutions, suggesting that these bacteria may help eliminate food-borne aflatoxins.

The Lactobacillus species tested in the study are naturally present in the gut flora in the human gastrointestinal tract and vagina, and are already considered probiotics because they have been found to provide a range of possible health benefits such as preventing colon, liver, bladder, and mammary cancers.

L. casei is commonly used as a probiotic to help digestion, boost lactose tolerance, and reduce constipation, among other things. Some commercial products with a strain of this species are known to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori in a lab study. Helicobacter pylori can induce stomach cancer.

The researchers said both the L. casei and the L. reuteri used in the study were safe to use in functional foods.

Alfatoxins are commonly present in corn, peanuts, and grains. Aflatoxin B is one of the dangerous toxins that can induce liver cancer.

Those who want to reduce the risk from exposure to aflatoxins may consider using a vegan diet.  According to Dr. T Colin Campbell, distinguished nutrition professor at Cornell University, aflatoxins can't have an effect on people eating a plant-based diet.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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