Research Emphasizes Fiber’s Role in Colon Health

Researchers now have more reasons for you to consume fiber and not misuse antibiotics. They’ve demonstrated that a receptor that physicians activate with mega-doses of niacin administered to protect patients’ cardiovascular systems also plays an integral role in preventing colon inflammation and cancer, according to a study reported in the journal Immunity.

The discovery helps explain why a high-fiber diet lowers the risk of colon problems and suggests that when fiber is lacking, niacin, or vitamin B3, just may aid in maintaining colon health as well, said corresponding study author Dr. Vadivel Ganapathy, Chairman of Georgia Regents University.

The study revealed that when mice lacked the receptor, Gpr109a, they were likely to develop inflammation and cancer of the colon. And, when they administered niacin to mice whose healthy colonic bacteria had been cleansed by antibiotics – a frequent consequence chronic antibiotic use – it helped guide immune cells in the colon into a safe, anti-inflammatory mode.

Helpful colonic bacteria depend on fiber and its digestion produces butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, which Ganapathy previously found naturally triggers Gpr109a. However, this relationship appears limited to the colon, where butyrate levels can soar in the case of a high-fiber diet.

The researchers have now shown that activation of Gpr109a in the colon by butyrate triggers immune cells to suppress rather than promote inflammation, a factor in a number of painful conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer.

The researchers claim, “To protect your colon, you need this receptor, as well as the fiber and butyrate which activate it. For individuals who won’t or can’t eat high-fiber diets, mega-doses of niacin, may aid in protecting the colon, the way it’s already protecting hearts”

The study authors conclude, “We believe mega-doses of niacin may be helpful in the treating and/or preventing of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer in addition to familial adenomatous polyposis, or FAP, a genetic condition that causes polyps to grow throughout the gastrointestinal tract.”

Written by Elijah Lamond