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Polyphenols, glucosinolates, dietary fibre and colon cancer: Understanding the potential of specific types of fruit and vegetables to reduce bowel cancer progression


Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer worldwide and the most common diet-related cancer, influenced by diets rich in red meat, low in plant foods and high in saturated fats. Observational studies have shown that fruit and vegetable intake may reduce colorectal cancer risks, although the precise bioactive components remain unclear. This review will outline the evidence for the role of polyphenols, glucosinolates and fibres against cancer progression in the gastrointestinal tract. Those bioactive compounds are considered protective agents against colon cancer, with evidence taken from epidemiological, human clinical, animal and in vitro studies. Various mechanisms of action have been postulated, such as the potential of polyphenols and glucosinolates to inhibit cancer cell growth and the actions of insoluble fibres as prebiotics and the evidence for these actions are detailed within. In addition, recent evidence suggests that polyphenols also have the potential to shift the gut ecology in a beneficial manner. Such actions of both fibre and polyphenols in the gastrointestinal tract and through interaction with gut epithelial cells may act in an additive manner to help explain why certain fruits and vegetables, but not all, act to differing extents to inhibit cancer incidence and progression. Indeed, a focus on the individual actions of such fruit and vegetable components, in particular polyphenols, glucosinolates and fibres is necessary to help explain which components are active in reducing gastrointestinal cancer risk.