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Whole Rye Bread Reduces Colon Cancer Risk

A recent Finnish study found that replacing white wheat bread with whole meal rye bread improves digestive function and favorably alters markers associated with colon cancer risk.

During this four-week crossover study, volunteers who normally ate white wheat bread ate whole meal rye bread instead, and otherwise kept their diets unchanged. Researchers found that simply by switching to rye bread, these individuals increased their intake of total and insoluble fiber by four to five times. As a result, they had heavier, bulkier stools and digested and eliminated foodstuffs more quickly-improvements in digestive function that have been linked to lower risk of colon cancer.

Among the men in this study, when a stool analysis was performed, it revealed that regular consumption of rye bread also significantly "diluted" the potency of a fecal bacterial enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Beta-glucoronidase releases potential carcinogens from the carrier molecules to which they have been attached for excretion, thus allowing them to stay in the body, so lessening the effectiveness of this enzyme helps block carcinogenic mechanisms in the intestine. In addition, levels of fecal butyrate rose when the men ate rye bread. Butyrate is a beneficial short chain fatty acid that provides fuel for the cells lining the colon and, by keeping them healthy, also helps protect against colon cancer.

Among the women who switched from white to rye bread, levels of urease, an enzyme with noted anti-tumor properties, increased, while levels of bile acids, which have been linked to tumor growth, were reduced.

To learn more about this beneficial grain, click rye.

Want suggestions for ways to enjoy rye more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating? For a list of the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing rye, click on the Recipe Assistant, select "rye" from the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing rye will appear immediately below.

Reference: Grasten SM, Juntunen KS, Poutanen K, et al. Rye bread improves bowel function and decreases the concentrations of some compounds that are putative colon cancer risk markers in middle-aged women and men. J Nutr 2000;130:2215-2221.

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