According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. when men and women are considered separately, and the second-leading cause when the figures are combined. During 2015, colon cancer is expected to cause about 49,700 deaths nationwide.
Researchers from Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina have shown that a diet containing dried plums can positively affect microbiota, also referred to as gut bacteria, throughout the colon, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer. This discovery was made by researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina, and presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston.
Dried plums contain phenolic compounds, which have various effects on human health, such as serving as antioxidants that neutralize the oxidant effects of free radicals, which can damage DNA. The scientists hypothesized that consuming dried plums would promote retention of beneficial microbiota and patterns of microbial metabolism in the colon, which could in turn decrease the risk of colon cancer.
The research team examined how dried plums’ antioxidants neutralized the type of changes that occur when cancerous cells damage the DNA. They found that when rats were fed a controlled diet of dried plums, two major phyla of bacteria in the gut – Bacteroidetes and Frimicutes – increased, without negatively impacting other areas of the colon. They also observed that those who were on the dried plum diet showed reduced numbers of aberrant crypts, which are early signs of precancerous lesions considered to be a red flag for future cancer.
Dr. Nancy Turner, a professor in the nutrition and food science department of Texas A&M University, who led the study concluded, “From this study we were able to conclude that dried plums did, in fact, appear to promote retention of beneficial microbiota and microbial metabolism throughout the colon, which was associated with a reduced incidence of precancerous lesions.”
The results from this study are exciting because they suggest that regularly eating dried plums may be a viable dietary strategy to help reduce the risk of colon cancer.