Probiotic content in food items such as yoghurt and kimchi help improve gut health
SINGAPORE — Scientists have found more evidence that a diet high in saturated fats is linked to more inflammation in the gut that, in turn, could cause colorectal cancer.
The study by scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also found that probiotic content in food items such as yoghurt and kimchi help in improving gut health.
In examining what causes inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the team led by Associate Professor Andrew Tan Nguan Soon discovered that a lower level of Angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPLT4) — a protein found in the gut — led to more inflammation.
Assoc Prof Tan said: “In our experiments, we observed that when gut microbes processed saturated fats, they will emit certain chemicals that lower the amount of ANGPLT4 produced by the cells, which then leads to more inflammation.”
When inflammation is prolonged, it could lead to IBD and, later, increase the risk of colon tumours.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Singapore, with more than 9,300 cases diagnosed from 2010 to 2014.
In a press release yesterday, NTU said that the team of NTU scientists led by Assoc Prof Tan discovered this new protein-linked factor that contribute to IBD, and have published their results recently in Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal.
Worldwide, about five million people suffer from IBD, which can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss, blood in stools and fever.
In Singapore, about 2,000 people suffer this yearly, and the numbers are rising sharply, NTU said.
Assoc Prof Tan said that their findings supported the conventional advice of eating wholesome foods with less saturated fats and with more probiotic content, usually found in fermented foods such as yoghurt or kimchi.
“The types of food being processed by the gut will change the microbe community. A high intake of saturated fat could increase the prevalence and replication of harmful pathogens, suppressing ANGPLT4 and causing even more inflammation,” he explained.
In the study, the team also found that dietary probiotics favour beneficial microbes that form a protective barrier along the gut. Retaining a barrier in the gut may be one way the ANGPTL4 protein prevents harmful bacteria from joining the microbe community.
In a related study, Assoc Prof Tan worked with a team from Wageningen University in the Netherlands to discover the effects that trans fat has on gut health. Published last week in the Journal of Lipid Research, the study found that while saturated fat led to massive IBD in mice that are lacking the ANGPTL4 protein, eating trans fat did not contribute to IBD symptoms but may result in the hardening and narrowing of arteries in the long term.
“In short, the public should eat foods that are high in unsaturated fats, like avocado and olive oil, while avoiding foods containing saturated fat, like butter, and trans fat, like margarine,” Assoc Prof Tan said.
“At the same time, foods containing probiotics, such as yoghurt, should also be consumed, as they improve the health of the gut.”