How Feeding Your Bacteria Fiber Protects Against Cancer

source: Cancer Discovery December 2014; 4 (12)

This is the breakdown: you eat fiber, specific bacteria in your gut digest fiber producing butyrate, this chemical then inhibits a certain enzyme. The reduced activity of this enzyme ratchets down cell proliferation and induces programmed cell death in cancer cells. And that’s one way fiber in our diet reduces colorectal cancer.


A Gnotobiotic Mouse Model Demonstrates That Dietary Fiber Protects against Colorectal Tumorigenesis in a Microbiota- and Butyrate-Dependent Manner.


Whether dietary fiber protects against colorectal cancer is controversial because of conflicting results from human epidemiologic studies. However, these studies and mouse models of colorectal cancer have not controlled the composition of gut microbiota, which ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Butyrate is noteworthy because it has energetic and epigenetic functions in colonocytes and tumor-suppressive properties in colorectal cancer cell lines. We used gnotobiotic mouse models colonized with wild-type or mutant strains of a butyrate-producing bacterium to demonstrate that fiber does have a potent tumor-suppressive effect but in a microbiota- and butyrate-dependent manner. Furthermore, due to the Warburg effect, butyrate was metabolized less in tumors where it accumulated and functioned as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor to stimulate histone acetylation and affect apoptosis and cell proliferation. To support the relevance of this mechanism in human cancer, we demonstrate that butyrate and histone-acetylation levels are elevated in colorectal adenocarcinomas compared with normal colonic tissues.


These results, which link diet and microbiota to a tumor-suppressive metabolite, provide insight into conflicting epidemiologic findings and suggest that probiotic/prebiotic strategies can modulate an endogenous HDAC inhibitor for anticancer chemoprevention without the adverse effects associated with synthetic HDAC inhibitors used in chemotherapy.


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