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High fat diet gets you colon cancer - studies

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By David Liu, PHD

Sunday April 15, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study released in Sept 2011 in molecular Carcinogenesis suggests that a high fat diet like Atkins diet and the Western diet promotes colon cancer growth and metastasis.

High fat diet has well known risks and it has already been associated with increased risk for atherosclerosis or heart disease, breast cancer, depression, colon cancer and reduced memory among other things.  But this study pointed out how the fatty diet could affect the carcinogenesis of colon cancer, which has a similar survival rate as breast cancer's.

The study led by H. Park in Hallym Uinversity in Chuncheon, Korea and colleagues showed that feeding mice that were inoculated with colon cancer cells a high fat diet with 60% calories from fat increased many biochemical factors that are closely related to the development of colon cancer including insulin and IGF-I, which are well known to promote cancer.

The study found that mice fed the high fat diet for 16 weeks increased solid tumor growth and the number and volume of tumor in the lung while the body weight was increased only sightly (5.9%).  This means although high fat diet may not increase body weight

The researchers wrote "HFD feeding increased tumor tissue levels of Ki67, cyclin A, cyclin D1, CDK2, Bcl-xL, and Bcl-2; reduced p53 levels and TUNEL-positive apoptotic cells; increased the levels of CD45, CD68, CD31, VEGF, P-VEGF receptor-2, iNOS, and COX-2 as well as hemoglobin content; and increased the levels of HIF-1α, P-STAT3-Y705, P-STAT3-S727, P-IκB-α, P-p65, p65, P-c-Jun, P-Akt, P-ERK1/2, P-p38, and P-SAPK/JNK. HFD feeding increased the serum levels of EGF, insulin, IGF-I, IFN-γ, leptin, RANTES, MCP-1, IL-1ra, and SDF-1α and media conditioned by epididymal fat tissue explants from HFD-fed mice caused an increase in microvessel outgrowth from the mouse aorta and tube formation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells."

The researchers concluded "These results indicate that the chronic consumption of an HFD increases colon cancer cell proliferation, tumor angiogenesis, and lung metastasis in mice in the absence of discernible weight gain. HFD feeding increases the levels of growth factors which activate transcription factors, thereby inducing the expression of many genes involved in the stimulation of inflammation, angiogenesis, and cellular proliferation."

Park's study was not the first to discover that high fat diets can increase risk of colon cancer.   

W.T. Wu and H.L. Chen of Chung Shan Medical University in Taichung Taiwan published a study in the Feb 2011 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry saying that high corn oil diet increased the levels of risk factors for colon carcinogenesis such as fecal β-glucuronidase, mucinase, and bile acids and decreased the preventive factors such as  fecal microflora and cecal short-chain fatty acids.

Wu and Chen found however that addition of 5% konjac glucomannan or inulin to a high fat diet for 4 weeks "reduced the fecal β-glucuronidase and mucinase activities and lithocholic acid (secondary bile acid) concentration." In addition, in rats fed a high fat diet with 25% corn oil on a weight basis, konjac glucomannan promoted the daily fecal excretion of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli and cecal SCFA contents, which is protective against colon cancer.

Both inulin and konjac glucomannan are available as dietary supplements.

Observational studies have associated with intake of calcium, coffee, dietary fiber, folic acid, garlic acid, iron, and vitamin D with the risk of colon cancer and rectal cancer.  Food consumers should be particularly aware of the association between consumption of red meat and processed meat with increased risk of colorectal cancer.  In such case, the problem is with heme iron and the toxic preservatives like nitrites and nitrates.

Colon cancer hits 100,000 American men and women each year. This disease together with rectal cancer kills about 51,600 people in the country each year.

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