Subjects: R and D
Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have figured out why a high-fiber diet helps prevent and possibly treat colon cancer.
Apparently, the stuff activates a cellular receptor that triggers a biochemical cascade which leads to apoptosis, or cell death in malignant cells.
In a fiber-poor environment, colon cancer cells deactivate the receptor, which is called GPR109A, by methylating the gene responsible for its production.
DNA methylation inhibitors are being studied as treatments for several cancers right now.
“We know the receptor is silenced in cancer but it’s not like the gene goes away,” Vadivel Ganapathy explained to BurrillReport. He’s the senior author on the paper, which appears in Cancer Research.
The beneficial events begin when gut bacteria metabolize fiber using a process that releases butyrate. This chemical binds to the receptor and the next thing you know, cancer cells vaporize.
But that’s not all. Activation of this receptor may also reduce inflammation which can promote cancer formation.
And wait, there’s more. Butyrate seems able to inhibit an enzyme that promotes uncontrolled growth of malignant cells.
Straight butyrate might work even better than fiber, but the stuff has an ungodly taste. And since fiber tastes like, well, fiber, the MCG scientists wonder whether a related compound like niacin, also known as Vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid, could have similar benefits.
Many people take niacin to control hypercholesterolemia.
That’s a lot of biochemistry but in a nutshell, “colon cancer does not want to have anything to do with butyrate,” summarized Ganapathy.