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News

Helping the aged gut replace good bacteria may reduce cancer risk

Society For General Microbiology : 10 April, 2002  (Company News)
Eating certain foods can increase the number of protective microbes in the gut. These bacteria help prevent food poisoning and can reduce levels of some toxic chemicals that may cause cancer, scientists heard at the spring meeting of the Society for General Microbiology at the University of Warwick.
Eating certain foods can increase the number of protective microbes in the gut. These bacteria help prevent food poisoning and can reduce levels of some toxic chemicals that may cause cancer, scientists heard at the spring meeting of the Society for General Microbiology at the University of Warwick.

'We have compared gut bacteria populations in young and elderly volunteers. What we've found is that as we get older the numbers of beneficial gut microbes are reduced and numbers of potentially harmful bacteria increase. Eating certain non-digestable carbohydrates, known as prebiotics, can reverse this trend,' says Emma Woodmansey of Dundee University.

Several hundred different bacterial species form a delicately balanced ecosystem within the gut. They help to digest food, boost the body's immune system, and produce substances such as vitamins. A rise in non-beneficial bacteria such as clostridia and E. coli is associated with the production of ammonia and other toxic chemicals, which may be a risk factor in tumour formation.

'We fed elderly volunteers carbohydrates called galactoligosaccharides and found that they increased the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria. Increasing numbers of these species can increase protection against food poisoning microbes like salmonella and may also help to increase the immune system reactivity,' Miss Woodmansey explained.
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