Gut bacteria has been linked to a multitude of benefits, including lower risk of obesity and diabetes as well as improved gastrointestinal health. Now experts are adding cancer prevention to gut bacteria's long list of health benefits.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found evidence that certain types of intestinal bacteria can reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Senior study author Robert Schiestl, a professor of pathology, environmental health sciences and radiation oncology at the UCLA, and his team studied laboratory mice and found that various types of gut bacteria have anti-inflammatory properties that can be harnessed to slow or stop the development of some tumors.
Schiestl and his team believe that the latest findings suggest that prescribing probiotics will lower cancer risks by increasing the number of anti-inflammatory intestinal bacteria.
"It is not invasive and rather easy to do," said Schiestl.
For the study, researchers focused on how a common bacterial strain called Lactobacillus johnsonii 456, which is used to make yogurt kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir, influenced laboratory mice genetically designed to be susceptible to ataxia telangiectasia, a neurologic disorder that has been linked to significantly higher risks of leukemia, lymphomas and other cancers.
Laboratory mice were divided into two different groups. One group was given only anti-inflammatory bacteria and the other group received a combination of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory bacteria. Researchers noted that intestines contain both good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria decreases inflammation and bad bacteria promote inflammation.
The study revealed that mice in the good bacteria group survived longer, with lymphoma tumors forming only half as quickly as mice assigned to the good and bad bacteria combo group. Mice given anti-inflammatory bacteria also lived four times longer than their combo counterparts.
Further analysis revealed that the Lactobacillus johnsonii 456 bacterial strain significantly reduced gene damage and inflammation. Researchers said the results are promising because inflammation has been linked to a host of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, dementia, arthritis, lupus, heart disease and accelerated aging.
"Together, these findings lend credence to the notion that manipulating microbial composition could be used as an effective strategy to prevent or alleviate cancer susceptibility," researchers wrote. "Remarkably, our findings suggest that composition of the gut microbiota influence and alter central carbon metabolism in a genotype independent manner. In the future, it is our hope that the use of probiotics-containing [supplements] would be a potential chemopreventive for normal humans, while the same type of microbiota would decrease tumor incidence in cancer susceptible populations."
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.