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Over The Horizon

Starch Cuts Gut Cancer Risk

Dietary fibre may not protect against colo-rectal cancer but starch should, according to Dr David Topping, a senior human nutrition researcher at the Australian CSIRO, speaking at the opening of Crop & Food Research's Food Industry Science Centre in Palmerston North.

Although it has not yet been fully proved in humans, butyric acid -- derived from starch (and fibre) broken down in the large bowel by resident bacteria -- has a very strong claim to reducing the risk of cancer, according to Topping.

Australians eat about half as much starch as they should, and this is thought to contribute to the country's very high colo-rectal cancer rate.

However, not all starches are equal. One of the strategies is to use high amylose starches in food products because they favour production of butyric acid in the colon. They could be put in muffins, breakfast cereals, breads and a whole range of products to raise the intake of the desired component, resistant starch. Other upcoming areas with real opportunities were the n-3 fatty acids, the fish oil fats.

"Evidence is growing that they are critical in human health and may be deficient in the diet."

These fats are known to play a key role in development of the brain, in auto-immune diseases such as Crohn's Disease and arthritis, and prevention of certain cancers.