Saturated fats in diet leads to inflammation in large intestine: Study

People should desist from eating a diet high in saturated fats, as researchers in Singapore have found that this may lead to more inflammation in the large intestine, which, in turn, could cause colorectal cancer. However, consumption of food items rich in probiotic content such as yoghurt and kimchi help in improving the health of the large intestine.

The study was conducted by researchers of Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The team led by Associate Professor Andrew Tan Nguan Soon discovered that a lower level of Angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPLT4) — a protein found in the large intestine — led to more inflammation.

Saturated fats in diet leads to inflammation in large intestine
Researchers of NTU have found out that saturated fats in diet leads to inflammation in large intestine. Photo courtesy:

Tan Nguan Soon said, “In our experiments, we observed that when gut microbes processed saturated fats, they will emit certain chemicals that lower the amount of ANGPLT4 produced by the cells, which then leads to more inflammation.”

However, when inflammation is prolonged, it could lead to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and, later, increase the risk of colon tumours. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Singapore, with more than 9,300 cases diagnosed from 2010 to 2014.

Tan Nguan Soon added, “The types of food being processed by the large intestine will change the microbe community. A high intake of saturated fat could increase the prevalence and replication of harmful pathogens, suppressing ANGPLT4 and causing even more inflammation.”

However, the team also found a positive thing that dietary probiotics favour beneficial microbes that form a protective barrier along the large intestine. Retaining a barrier in the large intestine may be one way the ANGPTL4 protein prevents harmful bacteria from joining the microbe community.

The researchers have published their findings recently in Scientific Reports.

Worldwide, about five million people suffer from IBD, which can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weight loss, blood in stools and fever. In Singapore, about 2,000 people suffer this yearly, and the numbers are rising sharply.  

Giving advice to the people, Tan Nguan Soon, said, “They should eat foods that are high in unsaturated fats, like avocado and olive oil, while avoiding foods containing saturated fat, like butter, and trans fat, like margarine. At the same time, foods containing probiotics, such as yoghurt, should also be consumed, as they improve the health of the large intestine.”