Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention.
Evidence that the intestinal microbiota is intrinsically linked with overall health, including cancer risk, is emerging. Moreover, its composition is not fixed but can be influenced by several dietary components. Dietary modifiers, including the consumption of live bacteria (probiotics) and indigestible or limited digestible food constituents such as oligosaccharides (prebiotics) and polyphenols or both (synbiotics), are recognized modifiers of the numbers and types of microbes and have been reported to reduce colon cancer risk experimentally. Microorganisms also have the ability to generate bioactive compounds from food components. Examples include equol from isoflavones, enterodiol and enterolactone from lignans and urolithins from ellagic acid, which have also been demonstrated to retard experimentally induced cancers. The gastrointestinal microbiota can also influence both sides of the energy balance equation, namely, as a factor influencing energy utilization from the diet and as a factor that influences host genes that regulate energy expenditure and storage. Because of the link between obesity and cancer incidence and mortality, this complex complexion deserves greater attention. Overall, a dynamic interrelationship exists between the intestinal microbiota and colon cancer risk, which can be modified by dietary components and eating behaviors.