The fruit of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is a rich source of dietary fibre and polyphenols. We have investigated gut bacterial changes induced by the whole date fruit extract (digested date extract; DDE) and its polyphenol-rich extract (date polyphenol extract; DPE) using faecal, pH-controlled, mixed batch cultures mimicking the distal part of the human large intestine, and utilising an array of microbial group-specific 16S rRNA oligonucleotide probes. Fluorescence microscopic enumeration indicated that there was a significant increase in the growth of bifidobacteria in response to both treatments, whilst whole dates also increased bacteroides at 24 h and the total bacterial counts at later fermentation time points when compared with DPE alone. Bacterial metabolism of whole date fruit led to the production of SCFA, with acetate significantly increasing following bacterial incubation with DDE. In addition, the production of flavonoid aglycones (myricetin, luteolin, quercetin and apigenin) and the anthocyanidin petunidin in less than 1 h was also observed. Lastly, the potential of DDE, DPE and metabolites to inhibit Caco-2 cell growth was investigated, indicating that both were capable of potentially acting as antiproliferative agents in vitro, following a 48 h exposure. This potential to inhibit growth was reduced following fermentation. Together these data suggest that consumption of date fruits may enhance colon health by increasing beneficial bacterial growth and inhibiting the proliferation of colon cancer cells. This is an early suggestion that date intake by humans may aid in the maintenance of bowel health and even the reduction of colorectal cancer development.
Keywords: Colonic cancer inhibition; DDE, digested date extract; DPE, date polyphenol extract; Date palm fruit; Date polyphenols; FISH, fluorescence in situ hybridisation; FOS, fructo-oligosaccharide; Gut ecology; SRB, sulforhodamine B.