Fat, fibre and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans

Nat Commun. 2015 Apr 28:6:6342. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7342.


Rates of colon cancer are much higher in African Americans (65:100,000) than in rural South Africans (<5:100,000). The higher rates are associated with higher animal protein and fat, and lower fibre consumption, higher colonic secondary bile acids, lower colonic short-chain fatty acid quantities and higher mucosal proliferative biomarkers of cancer risk in otherwise healthy middle-aged volunteers. Here we investigate further the role of fat and fibre in this association. We performed 2-week food exchanges in subjects from the same populations, where African Americans were fed a high-fibre, low-fat African-style diet and rural Africans a high-fat, low-fibre western-style diet, under close supervision. In comparison with their usual diets, the food changes resulted in remarkable reciprocal changes in mucosal biomarkers of cancer risk and in aspects of the microbiota and metabolome known to affect cancer risk, best illustrated by increased saccharolytic fermentation and butyrogenesis, and suppressed secondary bile acid synthesis in the African Americans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Diet, High-Fat / statistics & numerical data
  • Dietary Fiber / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa*
  • Metabolome
  • Microbiota
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • South Africa
  • Urine / chemistry


  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Fiber

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.1MN1N