Mar. 28, 2005 Consuming friendly live bacteria may help to lower people's risk of developing cancer, according to a University of Ulster scientist.
Professor Ian Rowland, Director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health based at the university's Coleraine campus, told a conference in Dublin that research had shown probiotics had a role to play in reducing the chances of developing cancer of the lower intestine.
"We know that the gut bacteria play a role in cancer - so things which modify the bacterial flora may have an effect," he said.
Professor Rowland told delegates to the conference on Bacteria in Food and Health - sponsored by probiotic company Yakult - that examinations of cells had provided evidence that probiotics could beneficially influence various stages in the initiation and development of colon cancer.
"Colon cancer or cancer of the lower intestine is one of the most prevalent cancers in the western world. It has the second highest incidence of mortality in the UK and Ireland and we know it's related to diet.
"We can identify compounds in the gut which can damage the DNA and we've found that probiotics can inactivate those chemicals."
Probiotics are bacteria often added to yoghurt and other products as they are believed to strengthen the body's defences. The live bacteria are thought to be beneficial to the digestive system by maintaining a balance between healthy and harmful bacteria in the gut.
They have also been linked with relieving symptoms of intestinal diseases problems, such as diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome and eczema.
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