Colonic protein fermentation and promotion of colon carcinogenesis by thermolyzed casein

Nutr Cancer. 1995;23(3):271-81. doi: 10.1080/01635589509514381.


Thermolyzed casein is known to promote the growth of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and colon cancer when it is fed to rats that have been initiated with azoxymethane. We speculated that the promotion was a consequence of increased colonic protein fermentation (i.e., that the thermolysis of the casein decreases its digestibility, increases the amount of protein reaching the colon, and increases colonic protein fermentation and that the potentially toxic products of this fermentation promote colon carcinogenesis). We found that the thermolysis of casein reduces its digestibility and increases colonic protein fermentation, as assessed by fecal ammonium and urinary phenol, cresol, and indol-3-ol. Thermolysis of two other proteins, soy and egg white protein, also increases colonic protein fermentation with increased fecal ammonia and urinary phenols, and thermolysis of all three proteins increases the levels of ammonia and butyric, valeric, and i-valeric acids in the cecal contents. We found, however, that the increased protein fermentation observed with thermolysis is not associated with promotion of colon carcinogenesis. With casein, the kinetics of protein fermentation with increasing thermolysis time are clearly different from the kinetics of promotion of ACF growth. The formation of the fermentation products was highest when the protein was thermolyzed for one hour, whereas promotion was highest for protein that had been thermolyzed for two or more hours. With soy and egg white, thermolysis increased colonic protein fermentation but did not promote colon carcinogenesis. Thus, although thermolysis of dietary casein increases colonic protein fermentation, products of this fermentation do not appear to be responsible for the promotion of colon carcinogenesis. Indeed, the results suggest that protein fermentation products do not play an important role in colon cancer promotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caseins / metabolism*
  • Colon / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Digestion
  • Female
  • Fermentation*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Kinetics
  • Ovalbumin / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Soybean Proteins


  • Caseins
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary
  • Proteins
  • Soybean Proteins
  • Ovalbumin