Colon Cancer - Nutra

Probiotic Foods and Supplements
Stuart J. Adams, Nutritionist
Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) have been used for years in the fermentation of certain food products because they
convert lactose to lactic acid which is responsible for the characteristic sour taste of fermented dairy foods such as
yoghurt. As well as their usefulness in the food industry, ingestion of LAB has been shown to exert beneficial
effects on human health by colonizing the gastro intestinal tract Recent evidence suggests that LAB consumed
either in fermented foods or as a supplement (referred to as ‘probiotics’) may have the potential to be used
medicinally in the treatment or prevention of certain diseases, however this evidence is preliminary and
sometimes conflicting. It is especially difficult to establish evidence to support the efficacy of probiotics as a
medicine or functional food due to varying strains and doses of LAB used. Some of the potential uses which at
least some evidence suggests that LAB foods or supplements may have are briefly discussed below.
Managing Lactose Intolerance: Because LAB convert lactose into lactic acid, their ingestion may help lactose
intolerant individuals tolerate more lactose than what they would have otherwise.1
Prevention of Colon Cancer: In laboratory investigations, LAB have demonstrated anti-mutagenic effects
thought to be due to their ability to bind with(and therefore detoxify) hetrocylic amines; carcinogenic substances
formed in cooked meat.2 Animal studies have demonstrated that LAB can protect against colon cancer in rodents,
though human data is limited and conflicting.3 Most human trials have found that LAB may exert anticarcinogenic effects by decreasing the activity of an enzyme called ß-glucuronidase 3 (which can regenerate
carcinogens in the digestive system). Lower rates of colon cancer among higher consumers of fermented dairy
products have been observed in some population studies;1 the results of which are encouraging however more
research is needed.
Cholesterol Lowering: Animal studies have demonstrated the efficacy of a range of LAB to be able to lower serum
cholesterol levels, presumably by breaking down bile in the gut, thus inhibiting its reabsoption (which enters the
blood as cholesterol).Some, but not all human trials have shown that dairy foods fermented with LAB can
produce modest reductions in total and LDL cholesterol levels in those with normal levels to begin with, however
trials in hyperlipidemic subjects are needed.1
Lowering Blood Pressure: Several small clinical trials have shown that consumption of milk fermented with
various strains of LAB can result in modest reductions in blood pressure. It is thought that this is due to the ACE
inhibitor like peptides produced during fermentation. 1
Improving Immune Function and Preventing Infections: LAB are thought to have several presumably beneficial
effects on immune function. They may protect against pathogens by means of competitive inhibition (i.e., by
competing for growth) and there is evidence to suggest that they may improve immune function by increasing the
number of IgA-producing plasma cells , increasing or improving phagocytosis as well as increasing the proportion
of T lymphocytes and Natural Killer cells 4,5 Clinical trials have demonstrated that probiotics may decrease the
incidence of respiratory tract infections 6 and dental carries in children7 as well as aid in the treatment of
Helicobacter pylori infections (which cause peptic ulcers) in adults when used in combination with standard medical
treatments.8 LAB foods and supplements have been shown to be effective in the treatment and prevention of
acute diarrhea; decreasing the severity and duration of rotavirus infections in children as well as antibiotic
associated and travelers diarrhea in adults.4,5,9
Reducing Inflammation: LAB foods and supplements have been found to modulate inflammatory and
hypersensitivity responses, an observation thought o be at least in part due to the regulation of cytokine function4.
Clinical studies suggest that they can prevent reoccurrences of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in adults, 4 as well as
improve milk allergies 10 and decrease the risk of atopic eczema in children.11
Discussion and Conclusion
These results suggest a specific medicinal role for probiotics as a functional food or supplement as being useful in
the management or prevention of certain acute and chronic diseases. More research is needed however to
establish the most effective dose and strains required for optimal benefit in each disease state, especially in those
which either lack an adequate body of evidence in support of (such as the prevention of hypersensitivity diseases
and respiratory tract infections), or that for which the evidence is not consistent, (such as lipid and blood pressure
lowering) Whilst the results discussed herein are encouraging, it should be noted that there are other functional
foods and medical treatments which have been shown to be far more effective in the prevention or treatment of
some of these diseases. Consequently, far more research is needed before recommendations should be made that
probiotics be used as a reliable method of treatment.
One might reasonably argue however that because of the preliminary supportive evidence and because probiotic
use has little or no risk, their use may be worthwhile as a disease-preventative strategy to maintain good health. As
is the case with regards to the treatment of acute diseases; this strategy may be of little worth as the most
appropriate strains and doses remain to be established. Furthermore, probiotic supplements are relatively
expensive, and do not provide other nutrients that LAB foods such as yoghurt do.
In conclusion, recommendations to consume daily servings of yogurt, which is also a rich source of calcium and
other micronutrients, may be made especially worthwhile given the potential benefit that LAB may have on
human health. Consumption of LAB supplements on their own however is expensive, does not provide
nutritional benefit and may be of little worth as dose and strains vary from brand to brand.
1. Sanders ME. Considerations for use of probiotic bacteria to modulate human health. J Nutr. 2000;130:384S-390S.
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Nutr. 2001;73:451S-455S.
3. Brady LJ, Gallaher DD, Busta FF. The role of probiotic cultures in the prevention of colon cancer. J Nutr.
4. Reid G, Jass J, Sebulsky MT, McCormick JK. Potential uses of probiotics in clinical practice. Clin Microbiol Rev.
5. Ouwehand AC, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Probiotics: an overview of beneficial effects. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek.
6. Hatakka K, Savilahti E, Ponka A, Meurman JH, Poussa T, Nase L, Saxelin M, Korpela R. Effect of long term
consumption of probiotic milk on infections in children attending day care centres: double blind, randomised trial. BMJ.
7. Nase L, Hatakka K, Savilahti E, Saxelin M, Ponka A, Poussa T, Korpela R, Meurman JH. Effect of long-term
consumption of a probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, in milk on dental caries and caries risk in children .
Caries Res. 2001;35:412-20.
8. Hamilton-Miller JM. The role of probiotics in the treatment and prevention of Helicobacter pylori infection.
Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003;22:360-366.
9. Cremonini F, Di Caro S, Nista EC, Bartolozzi F, Capelli G, Gasbarrini G, Gasbarrini A. Meta-analysis: the effect
of probiotic administration on antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002;16:1461-1467
10. Kirjavainen PV, Salminen SJ, Isolauri E Probiotic bacteria in the management of atopic disease: underscoring the
importance of viability. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2003;36:223-227
11. Kalliomaki M, Salminen S, Poussa T, Arvilommi H, Isolauri E. Probiotics and prevention of atopic disease: 4-year
follow-up of a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2003;361:1869-1871.