Researchers show prebiotic can reduce severity of colitis

May 3, 2012

Researchers at Michigan State University have shown a prebiotic may help the body's own natural killer cells fight bacterial infection and reduce inflammation, greatly decreasing the risk of colon cancer.

Prebiotics are fiber supplements that serve as food for the trillions of tiny bacteria living in the gut. When taken, they can stimulate the growth of the "good" bacteria. The evolution of supplements (as well as , which are actual bacteria ingested into the system) provide new therapeutic targets for researchers and physicians.

In research published in the Journal of Nutrition, MSU's Jenifer Fenton reports that mice given the prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharide, or GOS, saw the severity of their colitis (one of the main forms of ) significantly reduced.

In fact, the mice fed GOS – a synthetic compound that is known to stimulate beneficial bacteria and is found in foods such as biscuits and infant formula – saw a 50 percent reduction in colitis.

Research has shown certain types of foods and fibers can reduce risk, said Fenton of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

"There is something unique about certain types of fibers, such as GOS, and how they alter cells and influence the to change disease risk, either for the good or bad," she said. "Our overall goal is to identify either dietary patterns or diet components to reduce inflammation and cancer risk.

"In this case, we used prebiotics to stimulate changes in bacteria in the gut that may have a beneficial impact on the colon."

Fenton worked closely on the project with Elizabeth Gardner, also with the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and who previously has looked at the impact diet plays in fighting off the flu. In applying some of the lessons learned in those studies to mice with bacterially induced colitis, the researchers found mice given GOS had significantly less inflammation and fewer abnormal cells, two precursors for colon cancer.

It appeared, Fenton said, the positive results were linked to the significant enhancement of the body's own , found in the immune system and crucial in fighting off new infections in the body.

"Our results suggest GOS may be effective in reducing colitis severity by priming the innate immune system," she said.

The next step is to verify how that mechanism works; finding that link could help researchers apply the lessons learned to other intestinal ailments.

Explore further: Low-calorie diet may be harmful for bowel disease patients

Related Stories

Low-calorie diet may be harmful for bowel disease patients

March 20, 2012
In a surprising result, Michigan State University researchers looking at the effects of diet on bowel disease found that mice on a calorie-restricted diet were more likely to die after being infected with an inflammation-causing ...

Novel cytokine protects mice from colitis

August 23, 2011
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects more than 1 million patients in North America, results from an uncontrolled immune response triggered by environmental factors, such as bacteria, in people genetically predisposed ...

Recommended for you

FDA's program to speed up drug approval shaved nearly a year off the process

December 7, 2017
Speeding the pace at which potentially lifesaving drugs are brought to market was a rallying cry for Donald Trump as a candidate, and is a stated priority of his Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. ...

Dangers of commonly prescribed painkillers highlighted in study

December 6, 2017
Commonly prescribed painkillers need to be given for shorter periods of time to reduce the risk of obesity and sleep deprivation, a new study has revealed.

Viagra goes generic: Pfizer to launch own little white pill

December 6, 2017
The little blue pill that's helped millions of men in the bedroom is turning white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first ...

Surgery-related opioid doses can drop dramatically without affecting patients' pain

December 6, 2017
Some surgeons might be able to prescribe a third of opioid painkiller pills that they currently give patients, and not affect their level of post-surgery pain control, a new study suggests.

Four-fold jump in deaths in opioid-driven hospitalizations

December 4, 2017
People who end up in the hospital due to an opioid-related condition are four times more likely to die now than they were in 2000, according to research led by Harvard Medical School and published in the December issue of ...

Researchers identify information gaps about opioid antidote naloxone

November 27, 2017
The nation's opioid epidemic kills 91 people a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll would be even higher, were it not for emergency responders' heavy reliance on naloxone as ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.