This 1 Nutrient Fights Colon Cancer

By on January 22, 2014
This year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 100,000 Americans will develop colon cancer–and about half are expected to survive. And while advances in cancer screenings have helped lessen the devastating impact of this disease, it still continues to kill–at a rate that worries researchers.

But now a new study published in the health journal Immunity says there may be a new way to prevent it naturally.

Better yet, it can be found in your local grocery store.

“We think mega-doses of niacin may be useful in the treatment and/or prevention of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer as well as familial adenomatous polyposis, or FAP, a genetic condition that causes polyps to develop throughout the gastrointestinal tract,” says Dr. Nagendra Singh, co-author of the study who works for the Cancer Center at Georgia Regents University.

And indeed, he may be right–as the research shows consuming more niacin, or vitamin B3, may halt the process that causes colon cancer from developing in the first place.

“Niacin is a vitamin, which, when taken in pharmacological doses, suppresses atherosclerosis by acting as a GPR109A agonist in immune cells,” writes researchers in their study, which was published earlier this week in the online version of Immunity. “At these high doses, niacin is likely to reach the colon at concentrations high enough to exert GPR109A-dependent effects. Therefore, the present studies suggest that pharmacological doses of niacin may have anti-inflammatory and tumor-suppressive effects in the colon.”

What Researchers Found

Using mice as their base model, researchers from the Medical College of Georgia–which included lead researcher Dr. Vadivel Ganapathy–gathered a group of mice missing something called the Gpr109a receptor, which is often indicated as a risk factor for colon cancer. Normally having this genetic trait causes colon cancer to develop more rapidly because the colon lacks healthy bacteria.

But after giving mice a solution rich in niacin, something interesting happened: Its immune cells went into anti-inflammatory mode.

Usually mice who lack a Gpr109a receptor have an inflamed colon–something niacin seemed to reverse.

“The present studies identify Gpr109a as an important mediator of butyrate effects in colon and also as a critical molecular link between colonic bacteria and dietary fiber and the host,” say researchers. “These findings have important implications for prevention as well as treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer and suggest that under conditions of reduced dietary fiber intake and/or decreased butyrate production in colon, pharmacological doses of niacin might be effective to maintain GPR109A signaling and consequently protect colon against inflammation and carcinogenesis.”

And although it is too soon to say if upping your niacin intake will prevent you from colon cancer, experts say it probably isn’t a bad idea to make it a priority in your diet–especially if you face a higher risk of this disease.

Of course you shouldn’t do so without first consulting your local physician, say experts.

What You Should Do

To keep colon cancer at bay, adding foods to your diet that are rich in niacin, such as fish, chicken and turkey, is one way to keep cancer-causing inflammation at bay. Other food sources, such as green peas and mushrooms, are a great way to get your daily niacin fix.

Readers: Do you eat enough niacin in your diet?

Colorectal Cancer
Study: Niacin May Prevent Colon
News: Niacin and Fiber Good for Lowering Colon Cancer

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