Expert: Western diet ‘a recipe for colon cancer’

Western diet is a recipe for colon cancer, says researcherA diet rich in meat and fats and low in complex carbohydrates, like the one consumed by a typical Westerner, increases the risk of cancer, according to a University of Pittsburgh researcher.

Professor Stephen O’Keefe from the University of Pittsburgh arrived at the conclusion based on an expanding body of evidence which shows the composition of the diet influences the diversity of intestinal microbes, supporting the link between diet, colonic disease and colon cancer.

In particular, those who eat a healthy diet containing high levels of complex carbohydrates have significant populations of micro-organisms in their gut called Firmicutes.

These bacteria use the undigested residues of starch and proteins in the colon to synthesize short-chain fatty acids and vitamins such as folate and biotin that maintain colonic health.

By contrast, meat digestion produces sulphur which decreases the activity of ‘good’ bacteria and increases the production of hydrogen sulphide and other possible carcinogens by sulphur-reducing bacteria.

Professor O’Keefe, who says colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults in the West, described his conclusions to the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate, UK, on March 31.

Among the dietary regimes that promote good overall heath is an alkaline diet, which has the added benefit of boosting bone health into old age.