Background: Ongoing epidemiologic and nutritional studies suggest that colorectal carcinogenesis is consistent with complex interactions between genetic susceptibility and environmental and dietary factors. Among the dietary components found to reduce colon cancer risk are high intakes of dietary fiber and calcium.
Purpose: We designed and conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial involving supplementation of the customary dietary intake with fiber and calcium and measurements of fecal bile acids to examine the potential mechanisms by which added dietary interventions might reduce colorectal cancer risk.
Methods: In a randomized, double-blinded, phase II study, we used a factorial design to measure the effects of dietary wheat bran fiber (2.0 or 13.5 g/day) in the form of cereal and supplemental calcium carbonate (250 or 1500 mg/day elemental calcium) taken as a tablet on fecal bile acid concentrations and excretion rates. Measurements were made at base-line randomization (i.e., after a 3-month placebo run-in period using 2.0 g wheat bran fiber plus 250 mg calcium carbonate) and after 3 and 9 months on treatment in a randomly selected 52-patient subsample of the 95 fully assessable study participants who had a history of colon adenoma resection. Concentrations of fecal bile acids, total, primary (i.e., chenodeoxycholic and cholic), and secondary (i.e., deoxycholic, lithocholic, and ursodeoxycholic), were measured in 72-hour stool samples by gas-liquid chromatography. All P values resulted from two-sided tests.
Results: All geometric mean fecal bile acid concentrations and excretion rates were lower at 9 months than at 0 months or 3 months on treatment in the high-dose fiber, high-dose calcium, and high-dose fiber/high-dose calcium treatment groups. The high-dose fiber effect at 9 months of supplementation was statistically significant with respect to virtually all geometric mean fecal bile acid concentrations and excretion rates. For example at 9 months versus 0 months, high-dose fiber supplementation caused a reduction in fecal concentrations of total bile acids (52% reduction; P = .001) and deoxycholic acid (48% reduction; P = .003). High-dose calcium supplementation also had a significant, but lower, effect at 9 months versus 0 months on the geometric mean total bile acid (35% reduction; P = .044) and deoxycholic fecal bile acid (36% reduction; P = .052) concentrations.
Conclusions: High-dose wheat bran fiber and calcium carbonate supplements given for 9 months are associated with statistically significant reductions in both total and secondary fecal bile acid concentrations and excretion rates in patients with resected colon adenomas. This study supports the hypothesis that one of the important ways in which a high intake of wheat bran fiber and calcium may reduce the risk of colorectal neoplasia and cancer is by reduction of the concentrations of fecal bile acids.
Implication: Phase III studies of these agents in the prevention of adenoma recurrence are necessary to confirm this hypothesis and have now been initiated at multiple institutions.