It turns out prunes aren’t just for your grandparents. Prunes, which are dried plums, show strong promise for enhancing gut bacteria and reducing the risk of colon cancer in adults of any age.
Texas A&M University and University of North Carolina researchers have found that a diet that includes dried plums seems to have positive effects on gut bacteria in the colon. This optimization of microbiota in turn appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Dried plums show promise for avoiding colon cancer naturally
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer-related complications in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2015, colon cancer caused an estimated 49,700 deaths in the U.S. This recent study concluded that dried plums were consistently beneficial to the ideal formation of gut bacteria throughout the colon, resulting in a natural reduction in colon cancer risk.
Research has already shown how diet is key in altering metabolism and colon microbiota composition. This has major implications for the prevention and treatment of a range of diseases. There are literally trillions of species of bacteria within our intestinal tract, but just over 400 have been identified. Disruptions to microbiota can cause intestinal inflammation and inflammation that can eventually lead to colon cancer.
Dried plums help support ideal gut bacteria levels
The cancer-protective effects of dried plums was tested in rats that had a strain of colon cancer similar to the human variety. Some of the test rats were fed a diet that contained dried plums, while others were fed a control diet with no plums. It was found that the prune-enhanced diet both reduced Firmicutes and increased Bacteroidetes in the colon — two primary types of gut bacteria.
Rats that consumed the control diet showed less optimal levels of gut bacteria, while the dried plum eating rats showed lower numbers of aberrant crypts and aberrant crypt foci than the control rats; aberrant crypt foci are precancerous lesions often considered an indicator of colon cancer.
It is believed that the phenolic compounds in dried plums, which have numerous known health benefits, are pivotal in its effectiveness against cancer. Phenolic compounds act as antioxidants that neutralize DNA-damaging, cancer-causing free radicals.
A simple dietary change can offer profound health benefits
The consumption of dried plums promotes beneficial gut bacteria retention and its positive metabolism in the colon. This strongly supports the reduction of the risk of cancer.
Researchers ultimately concluded that dried plums effectively protected against colon cancer due to their ability to contribute to beneficial colon microbiota. The research was presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston and was funded by the California Dried Plum Board.
While research with human subjects will help to solidify the data, these results strongly suggest that grandma was right all along! Eating more prunes is highly beneficial for colon health.