The foods consumed around the world greatly vary from region to region. People around the Mediterranean have diets consisting primarily of nuts, fish, fruits and whole grains. Many Asian diets are heavy on rice, vegetables and meat. The Western diet (United States) contains foods with high amounts of fats and sugars. Researchers at the University of California Davis Medical Center have received a grant to study how the Western diet affects the risk of getting certain types of cancers.
Three researchers from the UC Davis Medical Center (UCDMC) recently received a $2.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study how the Western diet impacts the risk of getting two types of cancers: liver and gastrointestinal (GI) cancer. The ultimate goal of the study is to gain a better understanding of how cancer is formed from metabolic issues, and to find new ways to prevent the growth of these two types of cancers.
Many common foods consumed in the Western diet contain high amounts of fats and sugars, compared to other diets made up of fresh fruits and vegetables (Image 1 courtesy of Wikimedia, image 2 courtesy of Wikimedia)
One of the researchers on this project, Yu-Jiu Yvonne Wan, PhD, who is the vice chair for research in the UC Davis Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has spent the past three decades studying the liver. Through her research of how retinoic acid works in the liver, she was able to better understand the relationship between retinoic acid and bile acids. Both of these two acids help regulate fat metabolism, but her research has shown that bile acid is a key factor in linking the health of the liver and gastrointestinal system (which includes the esophagus, pancreas, stomach and colon).
“Bile acid is made in the liver and circulates to the gut and back,” explained Dr. Wan. “You cannot ignore the gut when you study the liver.”
This current study will focus on studying how bile acid, the metabolism, and microbiota (bacteria) are affected by the unhealthy Western diet. Previous studies have already shown that consuming great amounts of fatty and sugary foods lead to the body generating toxic bile acids. These toxic bile acids can lead to health problems, such as inflammation and DNA damage.
Dr. Wan continued to explain that “we know that people who are obese or diabetic have increased risk for GI cancer. But we need to have a better understanding of how these conditions lead to cancer and how to prevent it.”
In addition to studying bile acid, the researchers will also study bifidobacteria. Bifidobacteria is a family of bacteria that commonly forms in the human gut. The UCDMC research team wants to see if this bacteria can be enriched to prevent liver and GI cancers from occurring because of the Western diet. The team will use a combination of complex milk sugars and bifidobacteria to see if this combination can reduce inflammation and stop the mechanisms that cause cancer. (Image on left courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
"We believe that enriching the gut with anti-inflammatory bifidobacteria can protect against GI cancer," said Dr. Wan.
The University of California Davis Medical Center is a top ranked research institution with many ongoing life science research projects. This is a great market for laboratory supply companies to meet with active researchers to help them find the best and newest products and technologies to help further their work. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. produces a semiannual BioResearch Product Faire™ event at UCDMC that gives researchers and life science product vendors the opportunity to meet. If you are a lab product vendor interested in meeting with active researchers at the University of Davis Medical Center, or if you are a UCDMC researcher interested in meeting with lab product vendors, visit the links below to learn about our upcoming 14th semiannual show on February 25, 2015.