High-fat, low-fiber diets increase the odds of developing Fusobacterium nucleatum-positive colorectal cancer, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.1

Previous research showed that levels of F nucleatum increase if an individual switches from a low-fat, high fiber diet to a high-fat, low-fiber diet, which is usually characterized by a high intake of red and processed meats. High levels of F nucleatum are also a marker for worse overall survival. For this prospective cohort study, researchers evaluated data from 137,217 health professionals, among whom there were 1019 cases of colorectal cancer.

Of the 1019 cases, 125 were F nucleatum-positive and 894 were F nucleatum-negative. “Prudent” diets of low-fat, high-fiber foods reduced the risk of F nucleatum­­-positive but not –negative colorectal cancer. It was noted, however, that people with prudent diets were less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise.

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The authors concluded that poor diets increase the risk of F nucleatum-positive cancer. Further studies are needed to elucidate the relationships among diets, bacteria, and carcinogenesis.


  1. Mehta RJ, Nishihara R, Cao Y, et al. Association of dietary patterns with risk of colorectal cancer subtypes classified by Fusobacterium nucleatum in tumor tissue. JAMA Oncol. 2017 Jan 26. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.6374 [Epub ahead of print]