Could eating beans aid cancer prevention?

A study by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has found that eating foods such as navy beans, which are rich in gut-supporting nutrients, fibre and amino acids, enhances the diversity of the gut microbiome and could help to prevent and treat colorectal cancer.

How was the study conducted?

Funded by the American Cancer Society, the results of the BE GONE trial targeted the gut microbiota of obese participants, who presented with a history of colorectal neoplasia. Neoplasia being an uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells or tissue in the body.

The non-invasive dietary intervention trial followed a four-week equilibration process, refining the initial 69 applicants, over the age of 30, down to the 55 who proceeded onto the study. Participants were split into two randomised groups, the first ‘control’ group continued consuming their usual diet, without beans, and the second ‘intervention’ group added a cup of study beans (pressure-cooked and canned organic navy beans stored in water with sea salt) to their usual diet each day. They followed these diets for eight weeks.

Stool and fasting blood were collected every four weeks, assessing the primary outcome of intra and inter-individual changes in the gut microbiome and in circulating markers and metabolites.

What is the gut microbiome?

Each of us has around 100,000 billion microbes or bacteria living in our gut. These are collectively referred to as the microbiome​. The two most common species of helpful bacteria found in our gut microbiome are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Maintaining a healthy balance between the helpful (good) bacteria and the unhelpful (bad) bacteria is fundamental in supporting a healthy digestive system, with the gut now understood to be central to health, containing more than 70% of our immune system.