This diet can be bad for your health

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From: Viviane Werg


Liver cancer is one of the rarest but often fatal tumor diseases. A study shows which diet can increase the risk of liver cancer.

Frankfurt – Liver cancer (liver carcinoma) is a malignant disease of liver cells. Although relatively rare, it is one of the most common causes of death from cancer due to its poor prognosis. According to the German Cancer Society (DKG), approximately 8790 people (6160 men, 2630 women) develop this type of cancer in Germany each year.

A special feature of liver cancer is the increasing frequency of new cases and deaths in Germany. As the DKG informs, the incidence of liver cancer is increasing significantly in Germany, other European countries and the USA. Over the past 35 years, the number of new cases has doubled in both men and women.

A study from the University of Toledo found that certain diets may increase the risk of liver cancer in some people.

Liver cancer: a diet high in fiber increases the risk of liver cancer

Many people eat fiber-rich foods to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. The detailed results of the study published in the journal Gastroenterology have published show that a diet high in fiber (such as inulin) may increase the risk of liver cancer – especially in people who have a vascular malformation, where blood from the gut bypasses the liver.

liver cancer
Liver cancer (liver carcinoma) is a malignant disease of liver cells. © imago stock & people / Imago Images

Normally, blood travels from the intestines to the liver, where it is filtered before returning to the rest of the body. When there is a vascular defect (called a portosystemic shunt), blood is diverted from the intestine away from the liver and back into the general blood supply of the body. The vascular defect also allows the liver to continuously synthesize bile acids. These bile acids eventually overflow and end up in the bloodstream instead of the intestines. Blood bypassed by the liver contains high levels of microbial products that can stimulate the immune system and cause inflammation.

“This study is a remarkable step forward. It provides clues that can help identify people at higher risk for liver cancer and, if so, allow us to reduce the risk with simple dietary changes,” writes Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, lead author of study and professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Liver cancer: Previous study shows inulin appears to impact cancer development

Four years ago, Vijay-Kumar’s team published important work in the journal Cell. At that time they asked found that a high percentage of mice with immune system defects developed liver cancer after being fed an inulin-enriched diet.

Inulin is a fermentable, plant-based dietary fiber that is available in supermarkets as a health-promoting prebiotic. It is also a common ingredient in processed foods. While inulin promotes metabolic health in most people who consume it, Vijay-Kumar and colleagues found that about one in 10 apparently healthy standard lab mice developed liver cancer after consuming the diet. food containing inulin.

“This was very surprising considering the rarity of liver cancer in mice,” Vijay-Kumar said in his report. “The results raised real questions about the potential risks of certain dietary fibers, but it’s only now that we understand why the mice developed such aggressive cancer.”

Liver cancer: Not all fiber is equally good for everyone

“Dietary inulin is good for reducing inflammation, but it can lead to immunosuppression, which is not good for the liver,” writes Dr. Beng San Yeoh, postdoc and first author of the study.

While the researchers don’t make a general argument against the health benefits of fiber, they urge people to be careful about the type of fiber they eat, emphasizing the importance of personalized nutrition. “Not all fiber is created equal and not all fiber is equally good for everyone. People with liver problems associated with high bile acids should be careful with fermentable fiber,” Yeoh said. “If you have a leaky liver, you have to be careful what you eat. Because what you eat is processed differently.”

Interestingly, researchers found that a high total fiber intake led to a 40% increased risk of liver cancer in people whose blood bile acid levels were in the top quartile of the sample. Cancer risk in general can be reduced with five tips for everyday life.

Liver cancer: link between bile acids and dietary fiber

Overall, according to Yeoh and Vijay-Kumar, the results suggest both the need for regular testing of blood bile acid levels and a cautious approach to fiber intake in people who know that their levels bile acids in the blood are higher than normal.

The latest discovery could help doctors identify people at increased risk of liver cancer years before tumors develop and give them the chance to reduce the risk through simple dietary changes. (Vivian Werg)

Editor’s note

The information given in this article does not replace a visit to a doctor. Only experts can make the correct diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment. Taking medication or food supplements should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

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