Effect of prebiotics on biomarkers of colorectal cancer in humans: A systematic review

Michelle J. Clark, Kim Robien, Joanne L Slavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Prebiotics may prevent colorectal cancer (CRC) development in humans by modifying the composition or activity of the colorectal microflora. Epidemiologic and animal studies have shown a reduction in CRC or CRC biomarkers after the administration of prebiotics. Studies using indirect chemical biomarkers of CRC in humans, however, gave mixed results. Recently, human studies measuring direct physical indices of CRC risk after prebiotic consumption have been published. The purpose of this review is to summarize those studies to provide recommendations for the use of prebiotics in CRC risk reduction. A PubMed search was conducted, revealing nine studies. One tested lactulose, two evaluated a blend of oligofructose and inulin, and six measured resistant starch. Lactulose reduced adenoma recurrence, while resistant starch had no effect on adenoma or CRC development. Crypt mitotic location, gene expression, and DNA methylation were somewhat improved after resistant starch consumption. No changes in cell proliferation and apoptosis, crypt morphology, or aberrant crypt foci were found. More human studies measuring physical changes to the gut are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-443
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition reviews
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Colorectal neoplasms
  • Humans
  • Prebiotics
  • Systematic review

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