Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Lignans and isoflavonoids in human health

Lignans and isoflavonoids are abundant in plasma of subjects living in areas with low cancer incidence and are often referred to as phenolic phytoprotectants (the so-called PPPs). Lignan and isoflavonoid glycosides are converted by bacteria in the intestine to hormone-like substances which influence malignant cell proliferation and other factors in such a way as to make them 'strong candidates' as natural cancer-protective agents.

Animal experiments provide evidence that lignans and isoflavonoids may prevent the development of cancer both in the promotional and initiation stages. The project is proceeding along a number of lines including developing methods for the assay of PPPs (including bran phenols) in food and in animals/humans; elucidating mechanisms of antigenotoxic and anticarcinogenic effects of PPPs in the diet; the role/interaction of gut bacteria in the metabolism of PPPs and also in their bioavailability; and the role of rye bran (contains PPPs) on the development of transplanted prostate cancers in rats and mice. In the last mentioned experiments groups of rats were fed for 24 weeks on diets containing 33% of soya flour (SF), rye bran (RB), heat-treated rye bran (HRB), and rye endosperm (RE). In the SF, RB and HRB groups the tumours were retarded during the first 16 weeks of observation after transplantation compared to the control fibre-free group. These results were confirmed in a follow-on experiment with RB which was aimed at eliminating a lower energy intake as a possible cause of delaying the development of the cancer. The conclusion is that rye bran (as a PPP) inhibits the growth of implanted prostate cancer in rats and mice.

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