The Link between Flavonoids and Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Fruits and vegetables contain natural compounds known as flavonoids. Scientists discovered that these compounds could prevent colorectal cancer, but the underlying biology has never been fully understood.

Most cancers are linked to dietary factors. Researchers are still finding ways to confirm various foods that help in cancer prevention.

In recent research;

  • It was revealed that a molecular mechanism – 2,4,6-trihydroxybenzoic acid (2,4,6-THBA) – which is a salicylic acid derivative, can slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • Through this mechanism, products of flavonoid digestion can inhibit the growth of cancer cells under certain conditions.
  • The discovery was made as scientists were investigating how acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) can be used to reduce the risk of cancer. Later they found out that the natural sources of 2,4,6-THBA were as a result of digested flavonoids from fruits and vegetables.
  • The breakdown of flavonoids starts from the intestines. Then they are reduced into metabolites by the gut bacteria in the colon.
  • This made the scientists propose that the anticancer effects caused by flavonoids are from their metabolites, including the 2,4,6-THBA molecule.
  • Therefore, flavonoids prevent colorectal cancer due to the action of broken-down products and not the parent compounds.

The rectum and colon are part of the large intestine. Final digestion occurs in the colon, which is aided by gut bacteria. All the waste after digestion is deposited in the rectum, which disposes it off through the anus.

The 24,6-THBA metabolite uses a transporter protein known as SLC5A8 to enter the cancer cells and slow the rate of cell division or boost the immune cells’ ability to locate and kill cancer cells. It also gives damaged cells more time to repair the damages to their DNA.

The research team is working to identify the gut bacteria that aids in producing metabolites from flavonoids. From there, they can develop probiotics for preventing colorectal cancer.

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