Evidence indicates that consumption of probiotic microorganisms such as bifidobacteria reduces the risk of colon cancer in animal models. Feeding certain fructans such as oligofructose and inulin, which are thought to selectively increase the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria (i.e., a prebiotic effect), also has been shown to reduce colon cancer risk. The objective of our study was twofold, i.e. to determine whether the combination of bifidobacteria and oligofructose would have an additive effect (i.e., synbiotic) in reducing colon cancer risk in rats, and to determine whether other oligosaccharides would also be effective as part of a synbiotic combination. The development of colonic preneoplastic lesions (aberrant crypts) was used as an index of colon cancer risk. In one series of experiments, rats were given the carcinogen 1,2-dimethylhydrazine (DMH) and administered one of the following treatments: skim milk (control), bifidobacteria (bifido), oligofructose (OF) or bifido + OF. Neither bifido nor OF alone significantly reduced aberrant crypt number, Bifido + OF reduced aberrant crypt number in five of six experiments, although the reduction was significant in only one. However, a paired comparison of the six experiments indicated a significant overall reduction in aberrant crypts by bifido + OF (P = 0.039). Soybean oligosaccharide (SBO) and wheat bran oligosaccharide (WBO) were also fed in combination with bifidobacteria. In two other experiments, SBO did not alter the number of aberrant crypts compared with the control, whereas WBO reduced aberrant crypt number in one experiment but not in another. Of OF, SBO and WBO, only SBO reduced the colonic mucosa proliferation compared with the control. These results suggest that the combination of bifidobacteria and oligofructose reduces colon cancer risk in carcinogen-treated rats, but the effect of other oligosaccharides is uncertain.
- Colon cancer