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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Blame It on My Gut Bacteria: How Microbe-Host Interactions Influence Disease

Dallas R. DonohoeCollege of Education, Health, and Human Sciences - Nutrition

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and will result in over 50,000 deaths this year alone. Environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle play a major role in colorectal cancer susceptibility. Dietary fiber has been postulated to reduce colorectal cancer incidence. However, human epidemiological studies as to whether fiber protects against colorectal cancer have produced controversial results. These human studies have been confounded by genetic heterogeneity among participants that also results in different microbiomes and fiber fermentation properties.  Recently, we have found that butyrate, a product resulting from the bacterial fermentation of fiber in the colon, protects against the formation of colorectal tumors. Furthermore, we have observed that this protection provided through a high fiber diet and butyrate is regulated by the metabolism of the tumor cell. A high fiber dietary intervention represents a plausible, maintainable, and non-toxic approach to reducing colorectal cancer incidence.

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