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October 22, 2010 | 2 minute read

Our Billions of Microbes and Cancer Prevention

It’s the closing session at the AICR Research Conference and this one is focusing on another hot topic: microbes – the healthy ones. Our bodies are teeming with bacteria (a.k.a. microbes) and a lot of them live in our gut, metabolizing the food into metabolites that go on to play a role in cancer prevention or development.

What microbes we have and metabolites we produce may be a strong predictor of health and cancer prevention, suggests research presented by the international panel of scientists.

Among the presentations, Dr. Johanna W. Lampe at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center discussing her research in soy. Studies now show that only some people carry the bacteria to metabolize a soy compound (daidzein) into equol, which is linked with cancer prevention. Asian In general, about 50 to 60 percent of Asian populations carry the bacteria to break down daidzein, compared to only 20 to 30 percent of Western populations. There’s a lot of questions in this area and definitely more to study, says Dr. Lampe.

Yet a person’s metabolites can change within days, depending upon the diet, said Dr. Wendy Russell from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. In numerous studies, Dr. Russell looked at what happens to the microbes and gut’s metabolites when people ate different diets. For example, people who ate a diet high with soy as the protein source produced significantly more anti-inflammatory metabolites compared to people who ate a meat-protein diet.

There’s a lot of ongoing research in microbes, including studies from Harvard University’s Dr. Peter Turnbaugh’s lab suggesting our gut bacteria play a role in obesity. We’ll be writing more about the research presented at our 2010 Annual Research Conference so keep checking.

And if you participated or read about the conference, let us know what you think.

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