Whey proteins protect more than red meat against azoxymethane induced ACF in Wistar rats

Cancer Lett. 2003 Jul 30;198(1):43-51. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3835(03)00307-0.


Protein type and density have been shown to influence colon cancer risk using a carcinogen-induced rat model. It is suggested that red meat may promote colon cancer risk more than whey proteins. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of red meat, whey protein and their density in the diet on the number of aberrant crypt foci (ACF), preneoplastic markers in Wistar rats. The sources of protein, red meat as barbecued kangaroo muscle meat, and whey protein concentrate were fed to rats to provide 8, 16 and 32% protein by weight in a modified AIN-93 diet with low fiber, low calcium and high polyunsaturated fat. Adult Wistar rats (13 weeks of age) were fed these diets for 4 weeks and then two s.c. injections of azoxymethane, 15 mg/kg BW, were administered 1 week apart. Diets were fed for a further 8 weeks, rats were then killed, their colons fixed in formalin saline and stained with methylene blue to quantify ACF number. Fecal samples were collected and the fecal water was isolated for quantification of heme and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances. Increasing red meat density correlated positively, while increasing dairy protein density correlated negatively with rate of weight gain (p<0.05). Dietary intake was not significantly affected by protein type or density. The 32% whey protein group had significantly less ACF in the proximal colon in comparison to the 16 and 32% red meat groups (p<0.05). This reduction in ACF number in the whey protein group may be caused by hormones associated with the reduction in weight gain, and/or by components of whey protein concentrate such as cysteine, lactose and conjugated linoleic acid which have been shown to have anti-cancer effects. Using ACF number as an index, whey protein appeared to be more protective than red meat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Azoxymethane / adverse effects*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Diet
  • Heme / pharmacology
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Milk Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Whey Proteins


  • Milk Proteins
  • Whey Proteins
  • Heme
  • Azoxymethane