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Curr Issues Intest Microbiol. 2000 Mar;1(1):13-24.

Anti-carcinogenicity of probiotics and prebiotics.

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  • 1Northern Ireland Centre for Diet and Health, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland.


Yoghurt, and the lactic acid producing bacteria (LAB; probiotics) that it contains, have received much attention as potential cancer-preventing agents in the diet. It is usually considered that the mechanism of the action is by increasing the numbers of LAB in the colon, which modifies the ability of the microflora to produce carcinogens. Prebiotics such as non-digestible oligosaccharides (NDO) appear to have similar effects on the microflora by selectively stimulating the growth of LAB in the colon. Evidence for cancer-preventing properties of pro- and prebiotics is derived from studies on faecal enzyme activities in animals and humans, inhibition of genotoxicity of known carcinogens in vitro and In vivo, suppression of carcinogen-induced preneoplastic lesions and tumours in laboratory animals. Some of these studies indicate that combinations of pro and prebiotics ('synbiotics') are more effective. Epidemiological and intervention studies provide some, albelt limited, evidence for protective effects of products containing probiotics in humans.

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