Scientists from the University of Reading found that eating dates could help boost gut flora growth and large intestinal health.
Gut microbiota is the microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea, that live in the digestive tracts.
The gut microbiota provides essential capacities for the fermentation of non-digestible substrates such as dietary fibers.
Scientists found a link between the increased presence of certain bacteria in a gut microbiome and colon cancer.
They also found that eating plant-based foods is linked to a reduction in the risk of colon cancer.
This may be because plant-based foods are high in insoluble fiber and (poly)phenols which can interact with the gut microbiota.
The human body’s largest population of microorganisms resides in the intestine and is collectively called the gut microbiota.
Dates are considered a staple food item in the Middle East and North Africa and are also imported in Europe, the UK, and the USA.
On average, dates contain 21% water, 75% carbohydrates (63% sugars and 8% dietary fiber), 2% protein, and less than 1% fat.
Dates are a moderate source (10-19% of the Daily Value) of vitamin B6 and the dietary minerals magnesium, manganese, and potassium, with other micronutrients in low amounts.
Research has shown that dates are disease-fighting antioxidants, may improve brain health, improve bone health and help control blood sugar.
Dates also contain significant amounts of polyphenols, compounds that offer a wide variety of health benefits, such as better digestion and cancer prevention.
In the study, the team examined whether eating dates could boost the growth of gut microbiota and reduce the risks of colon cancer.
They tested 22 healthy volunteers. These people were assigned to either a control group or a group eating seven dates, approximately 50 g for 21 days. Each group was separated by a 14-d washout period in a cross-over manner.
The team examined changes in the growth of gut microbiota and markers of colon cancer risk.
They found that although eating dates did not induce big changes in the growth of bacterial groups, there were big increases in bowel movements and stool frequency in the group of the date.
In addition, there were big reductions in stool ammonia concentration after consumption of dates.
This suggests that the daily consumption of seven pieces of date fruit could provide the gut microbiota energy supply and reduce toxic metabolites.
Furthermore, the team found eating date fruit strongly reduced toxic damage to DNA.
These findings suggest that eating date fruit may reduce colon cancer risk without inducing changes in the gut microbiota.
The team suggests that the current study is considered a preliminary one that shows a possible feature of date fruits in boosting colon movements and metabolism and in reducing toxicity.
However, it is hard to conclude that eating dates could prevent colon cancer effectively, because colon cancer has many risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
People with these health conditions often have altered gut microbiota. How eating dates could interact with the altered gut microbiota, and whether eating dates could protect these high-risk people still need more research to find out.
The research is published in the British Journal of Nutrition and was conducted by Noura Eid et al.
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