A Canadian in vitro study investigated the effects of two nutrients on colon cancer. Would the amino acid carnitine improve the anticancer effect of a fatty acid? Results were promising.

Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, is one of the most common cancers in the world. The risk of developing colon cancer is about 1 in 20. However, if caught early, the cancer can be cured. The 5-year survival rate for stage 1 (the earliest stage) is almost 75%.

Not all risk factors for developing colon cancer are known, though people with inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk. People with Type 2 diabetes also have a higher risk of developing colon cancer.

Nutrition and diet are other risk factors. A diet high in red meat and processed meat increases the risk of developing colon cancer. Diets high in vegetables and fiber could reduce the risk, though studies are continually ongoing.

Researchers (M Roy, S Dionne, et al) from the University of Montreal’s Department of Nutrition (Quebec, Canada) developed a study to investigate the effect of diet and colon cancer. The study focused on butyrate and the amino acid carnitine.

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid, found in dietary fiber and dairy products. Butyrate has potential anticancer affects. And butyrate’s effectiveness is enhanced by carnitine. Would these two nutrients inhibit colon cancer?

Carnitine and colon cancer cells: results

Human colon cancer cells were incubated with butyrate and carnitine. The colon cancer cells were tested for proliferation–reproducing, and apoptosis—programmed cell death.

The researchers found that butyrate and carnitine acted on the cancer cells at the molecular level. Proteins which cause apoptosis were increased by the butyrate and carnitine, and the cancer cell genetic expression was decreased.

The study concluded that carnitine and butyrate do prevent colon cancer cells from spreading, and also that carnitine and butyrate cause apoptosis in colon cancer cells. This could lead to further in vivo studies, with the hope of finding new treatments for colon cancer

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19619983