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J Clin Invest. Apr 1978; 61(4): 953–963.
PMCID: PMC372613

Influence of diets high and low in animal fat on bowel habit, gastrointestinal transit time, fecal microflora, bile acid, and fat excretion.


Epidemiological observations and animal experiments suggest that large bowel cancer is related to serveral factors. Among them, high dietary intakes of animal fat, the presence in the colon of relatively high levels of bile acids, specific patterns of intestinal microflora, slow transit through the gut, and low stool weights. Under metabolic conditions we have observed the effect on these variables of dietes containing 62 or 152 g/day of fat mainly of animal origin in six healthy young men over 4-wk periods. No change attributable to the diet was observed in the subjects' bowel habit, fecal weight, mean transit time through the gut, or in the excretion of dry matter. Total fecal bile acid excretion was significantly higher on the high fat diet (320 +/- 120 mg/day) than on the low fat diet (139.7) +/- 63 mg/day) t test = 7.78 P less than 0.001 as also was the total fecal fatty acid excretion, 3.1+/-0.71 and 1.14+/-0.35 g/day, respectively t test = 11.4 P less than 0.001). The fecal microflora including the nuclear dehydrogenating clostridia were unaltered by the dietary changes as was fecal beta-glucuronidase activity. Dietary changes which increase animal fat intake clearly influence fecal bile acid excretion in a way that would favor the development of large bowel cancer if current theories prove to be true. Dietary fat however has no effect on overall colonic function so other components of the diet must be responsible for the observed associations of bowel cancer with slow transit and reduced fecal bulk.

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