Past studies have proposed that a diet high in red meat may lead to an increased risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer. Although this is still pertinent, a recent Australian study published in Cancer Prevention Research has illustrated that this risk may be reduced by increasing the intake of resistant starch when consuming red meat. Resistant starch, found in foods such as unripe bananas, root vegetables, whole grains, and cooked and cooled potatoes (e.g. potato salad), is thought to act as a protective agent against cancer-promoting molecules.
Unlike many other starches, resistant starch travels through the small intestine and reaches the bowel undigested. In this manner, resistant starch closely resembles fibre and is easily broken down by gut microbes to create advantageous molecules known as short-chain fatty acids, e.g. butyrate. Butyrate is significant in cell metabolism and positively impacts colon cancer cells by modifying microRNAs, which control gene expression.
Additional studies are necessary to fully understand this connection. However, from these findings we are aware of at least one lifestyle change that can be made to lower the risk of bowel cancer – always add resistant starch to a meal that contains red meat. Additionally, scientists are in the process of modifying grains such as maize in an attempt to increase their levels of resistant starch. It is anticipated that this modification will enable individuals to easily consume the required amount of resistant starch per meal.
Gholipour, Bahar. “Certain starch may reduce colon-cancer risk of meat-heavy diet.” Yahoo News, August 5, 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/certain-starch-may-reduce-colon-cancer-risk-meat-234412716.html;_ylt=AwrSyCV.1OFTVBoA.vQQ5gt, (accessed August 14, 2014).
Headlines & Global News, “Consuming resistant starch reduces risk of colorectal cancer from red-meat consumption,” August 4, 2014. http://www.hngn.com/articles/37902/20140804/consuming-resistant-starch-reduces-risk-colorectal-cancer-red-meat-consumption.htm, (accessed August 14, 2014).
Humphreys, Karen J. “Dietary manipulation of oncogenic microRNA expression in human rectal mucosa: A randomized trial.” Cancer Prevention Research 7, no. 8. (2014): 786-795
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