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Cancer-fighting prunes?

New rodent research suggests the importance of the gut microbiota, and prunes’ possible power to regulate it, in the battle against colon cancer.

Are prunes potent cancer-fighters? Could be, according to a new rodent study. And while the research was funded by the California Dried Plum Board, it does highlight the potential cancer-busting role played by the bacteria in our guts.

Researchers from Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina found that a diet containing dried plums can positively affect microbiota, also referred to as gut bacteria, throughout the colon, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer. They presented their research at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston. 

The researchers fed one group of rats a diet that included dried plums, which are rich in antioxidant phenolic compounds, and another control group a diet without plums, but with the same amount of calories and macronutrient composition. Disruptions to the microbiota appear to trigger intestinal inflammation that can, if recurring, promote the development of colon cancer in the long term, according to a post.

The scientists wanted to see whether the prunes helped establish and maintain healthy levels of the right bacteria in the rats’ guts. It seems they did, according to lead researcher, Dr. Nancy Turner, Texas A&M Agrilife Research professor in the nutrition and food science department of Texas A&M University, College Station.

"From this study we were able to conclude that dried plums did, in fact, appear to promote retention of beneficial microbiota and microbial metabolism throughout the colon, which was associated with a reduced incidence of precancerous lesions," she said in a release from the California Dried Plum Board.

She told that while additional research is needed, particularly in human studies, the results from this study are exciting because they suggest that regularly eating dried plums may be a viable dietary strategy to help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Last year, research by the University of Liverpool found that eating prunes as part of a weight control diet can improve weight loss.

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