Fiber Turns on Cancer-Fighting Gene

Scientists have found a human gene that stops the growth of cancer cells when activated by fiber processing in the colon. Their study, focused on the protective effects of butyrate, a fatty acid produced during the intestinal fermentation of dietary fiber. Although scientists have long linked butyrate to overall reductions in the incidence of colon cancer, the molecular basis of that benefit has remained largely unknown. Butyrate effects a chemical "unloosening" of molecules that otherwise bind and constrict the activity of the p21 gene. This gene is responsible for the manufacture of p21 protein, a compound that slows the growth of cancer cells.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1998;95:6791-6796.

COMMENT: One of the good reasons to eat fiber. However, it is important to remember that using high fiber whole wheat bread to increase butyrate content may not be the wisest choice for most people. Vegetable based fibers would be a choice that would have better health consequences for most people.

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