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Scientific basis of biomarkers and benefits of functional foods for reduction of disease risk: cancer *

One of the most promising areas for the development of functional foods lies in modification of the activity of the gastrointestinal tract by use of probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics. While a myriad of healthful effects have been attributed to the probiotic lactic acid bacteria, perhaps the most controversial remains that of anticancer activity. However, it must be emphasised that, to date, there is no direct experimental evidence for cancer suppression in man as a result of consumption of lactic cultures in fermented or unfermented dairy products, although there is a wealth of indirect evidence, based largely on laboratory studies. Presently, there are a large number of biomarkers available for assessing colon cancer risk in dietary intervention studies, which are validated to varying degrees.

These include colonic mucosal markers, faecal water markers and immunological markers. Overwhelming evidence from epidemiological, in vivo, in vitro and clinical trial data indicates that a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of chronic disease, particularly cancer. It is now clear that there are components in a plant-based diet other than traditional nutrients that can reduce cancer risk. More than a dozen classes of these biologically active plant chemicals, now known as ‘phytochemicals’, have been identified. Although the vast number of naturally occurring health-enhancing substances appear to be of plant origin, there are a number of physiologically active components in animal products (such as the probiotics referred to above) that deserve attention for their potential role in cancer prevention.

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As with any procedure, there could be pain or other substantial risks involved. These concerns should be discussed with your health care provider prior to any treatment so that you have proper informed consent and understand that there are no guarantees to healing.

THE INFORMATION IN THIS WEBSITE IS OFFERED FOR GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT IMPLY OR GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE. No Doctor/Patient relationship shall be deemed to have arisen simply by reading the information contained on these pages, and you should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your medical treatment before undergoing any sort of treatment or therapy.

Published on 08-04-2008
Authors: Joseph J. Rafter
Source: Department of Medical Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, NOVUM, S-141 86 Huddinge, Sweden