COLLEGE STATION, Texas (CBS Houston) — Eating dried plums may help lower the risk of colon cancer, according to a new study.

Texas A&M researchers found that dried plums help build retention of gut bacteria in the colon, ultimately helping lower the risk of colon cancer, as reported by Medical News Today.

Previous research has indicated that diet changes can affect the metabolism and composition of colon microbiota. Study author Dr. Nancy Turner says there are trillions of bacteria found in the intestinal tract. Disruptions to microbiota seem to help trigger initial intestinal inflammation and recurrences, promoting the development of colon cancer.

Dried plums, which contain phenolic compounds, can serve as antioxidants that neutralize oxidant effects of free radicals that damage DNA.

Researchers tested the effect of these compounds on a rat model of colon cancer by feeding the subjects a diet with dried plums or a control diet. Both diets had equal total calories and macro-nutrient composition to ensure that any differences were attributed to the dried plums. The intestinal contents and colon tissue were then examined by researchers.

The findings suggest that consuming dried plums affected the levels of two major phyla of bacteria found in the gut. Dried plums increased the level of Bacteroidetes and reduced the amount of Firmicutes. The control diet showed a lower level of Bacteroidetes and increased the amount of Firmicutes

Rats that had a diet containing dried plums showed significantly reduced numbers of abberant crypts when compared to control rats. Experts say crypts can be a strong indicator for cancer development.

“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,” Turner told Medical News Today.

Further research is needed in human studies to confirm the findings. The study was funded by the California Dried Plum Board.

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