The high-fiber myth that’s killing colon cancer patients

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I don’t talk about animal studies very often. It’s a very deliberate decision. After all, it’s a pretty big leap in logic to assume a result you get in mice will translate to humans (much less in practical, everyday use, outside of a lab setting).

Plus, there are just too many great human studies out there to bother much with ones on rodents.

But all research has to start somewhere—and usually it is in the lab, with mice. Which is why I occasionally make an exception to my own “rule.” Because if something exciting is starting to happen, I want to share it with you.

And in this case, I just couldn’t resist.

Because this new study I came across takes two of my favorite topics—carbohydrates and gut bacteria—and combines them in a way that will completely knock your socks off.

It’s also part of a very fascinating and rapidly growing new area of medicine called epigenetics. It’s a field of study that I’ve mentioned before.  And it focuses on the potential to change the course of health and disease by altering your genes’ expression through environmental influences. In other words, lifestyle choices—like diet and exercise.

Amazing, right? But enough background. Let me tell you what this new research found…

According to this new study, a high-carb diet can trigger certain gut bacteria to send out chemical signals that fuel abnormal cell growth in the intestinal tract. And abnormal cell growth, as you’ll remember, is exactly how cancer starts to form.

Researchers found, however, that there were two ways to stop this effect and reduce tumors in these genetically predisposed mice.

One way was by using antibiotics to destroy gut bacteria. An interesting finding, I’ll admit. But a horrible suggestion for humans. Research shows that you need a diverse bacterial population to ward off colon cancer.  So wiping out your gut bacteria with antibiotics isn’t a good idea. (Pardon the pun, but you don’t burn down the barn to deal with the rats.)

But the other way the researchers slowed down tumor formation in the animals was just as effective. And it made a great deal more sense.

They put the mice on a low-carbohydrate diet. (Now if they could just teach those mice how to read my books…)

That’s right—this research (albeit preliminary) suggests that simply stepping away from that bottomless pasta bowl could change everything when it comes to protecting yourself from potentially deadly colon cancer.

In fact, last year, I told you about a study that showed that a starchy, high-carbohydrate diet doubled the risk of disease recurrence in colon cancer patients.   And raised it by as much as 80 percent in patients who were also obese or overweight.

Can you see why this is such huge news? For years, patients with a high risk of colon cancer have been advised to avoid meat and fill up on fiber, fiber, and more fiber to protect themselves.

Advice that’s questionable, at best. And downright deadly, at worst.

You already know I think giving up meat is ludicrous.

And I have nothing against fiber in and of itself. But I do have a very big problem with the way most Americans go about getting more of it in their diet. Which is through bread, cereal, and other supposedly “healthy” whole grain foods.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Because whole or not, grains are loaded with carbohydrates—which turn right into cancer-fueling sugar in your body.

This new mouse study supports my long-held stance. And I certainly hope similar studies—in humans—will keep rolling in.

But as far as I’m concerned, it’s really just basic common sense. If you want to lower your risk of cancer—colon or otherwise—don’t give up meat. Give up bread.


“Gut microbial metabolism drives transformation of msh2-deficient colon epithelial cells.” Cell. 2014 Jul 17;158(2):288-99.