First trial proves that resistant starch supplement could help prevent hereditary cancer, with effects lasting for years.
A daily bowl of breakfast cereal may be what stands between you and cancer, according to new findings from a recent clinical trial. People with an inherited form of cancer called Lynch syndrome, who eat high amounts of resistant starch, showed a significant reduction in cancer found in multiple parts of the body.
You may know resistant starch as fermentable fiber and it’s found in a variety of foods, such as oats, cereal, cooled or cooked pasta, rice, peas, beans, and slightly green bananas. Resistant starch is also available as a powder supplement.
For two years, nearly 1,000 people with Lynch Syndrome ate a regular dose of resistant starch as part of their daily diet. The dosage was similar to eating a daily banana. While resistant starch did little for the colon, it can drop upper gastrointestinal cancer risk by half.
But what was most surprising was the long-lasting effects of resistant starch. Even after people stopped eating resistant starch, its effects lasted for another 10 years.
“We found that resistant starch reduces a range of cancers by over 60%. The effect was most obvious in the upper part of the gut,” John Mathers, a professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University and coauthor of the study, explains in a press release. “This is important as cancers of the upper GI tract are difficult to diagnose and often are not caught early on.
The idea behind its cancer-fighting effects is that it resists digestive breakdown. As it travels to the bowels, the starch can modify the type of bacteria inhabiting the area.
“Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that isn’t digested in your small intestine, instead it ferments in your large intestine, feeding beneficial gut bacteria – it acts in effect, like dietary fiber in your digestive system,” says Mathers. “This type of starch has several health benefits and fewer calories than regular starch. We think that resistant starch may reduce cancer development by changing the bacterial metabolism of bile acids and to reduce those types of bile acids that can damage our DNA and eventually cause cancer.”
Aspirin also emerges as drug that prevent colon cancer
A separate part of the trial tested aspirin’s effects on cancer development. Like resistant starch, the scientists did not find any significant difference in cancer risk until a long-term follow-up. They found aspirin cut half the risk for colon cancer.
“Patients with Lynch syndrome are high risk as they are more likely to develop cancers so finding that aspirin can reduce the risk of large intestine cancers and resistant starch other cancers by half is vitally important,” says Mathers. “Based on our trial, NICE now recommends Aspirin for people at high genetic risk of cancer, the benefits are clear – aspirin and resistant starch work.”
The team is planning another long-term follow-up to gauge aspirin’s and resistant starch’s continual effects on cancer prevention. Since the last check-in, the researchers reported five new cases of upper GI cancer in 463 participants that took resistant starch compared to 21 cases in 455 participants taking a placebo.
Another part of the study will enroll 1,800 people with Lynch syndrome to study how a smaller and safer aspirin dosage can help reduce cancer risk.
The study is published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.