Bile Acids, Gut Microbes, and the Neighborhood Food Environment-a Potential Driver of Colorectal Cancer Health Disparities

mSystems. 2022 Feb 22;7(1):e0117421. doi: 10.1128/msystems.01174-21. Epub 2022 Feb 1.


Bile acids (BAs) facilitate nutrient digestion and absorption and act as signaling molecules in a number of metabolic and inflammatory pathways. Expansion of the BA pool and increased exposure to microbial BA metabolites has been associated with increased colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. It is well established that diet influences systemic BA concentrations and microbial BA metabolism. Therefore, consumption of nutrients that reduce colonic exposure to BAs and microbial BA metabolites may be an effective method for reducing CRC risk, particularly in populations disproportionately burdened by CRC. Individuals who identify as Black/African American (AA/B) have the highest CRC incidence and death in the United States and are more likely to live in a food environment with an inequitable access to BA mitigating nutrients. Thus, this review discusses the current evidence supporting diet as a contributor to CRC disparities through BA-mediated mechanisms and relationships between these mechanisms and barriers to maintaining a low-risk diet.

Keywords: bile acids; cancer disparities; colorectal cancer; gut microbes; microbes; nutrition; nutrition equity; social equity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Colorectal Neoplasms*
  • Food
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans


  • Bile Acids and Salts