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Mutagens in feces of vegetarians and non-vegetarians Bergstrom, Danielle Cantin


Mutagens in feces have been suggested to be an indicator for risk of colon cancer. Groups consuming vegetarian diets are known to have lower mortality from colon cancer. The purpose of this study was to assess mutagenic activity in feces of persons habitually consuming vegetarian or non-vegetarian diets and to try to identify dietary factors or other health habits which contributed to fecal mutagenicity. Eleven strict vegetarians, six ovo-lacto vegetarians and twelve non-vegetarians, all from the Greater Vancouver area, participated in this study. Data on certain demographic variables and health habits, as well as dietary intake (food frequency and food records), were taken. One fecal sample was collected from each subject for the study. Aqueous extracts of the feces were prepared and analyzed for mutagens using the fluctuation test with Salmonella typhimurium TA100 and TA98. Levels of mutagenicity on each organism were then statistically correlated with frequency of consumption of food groups, nutrient intake, demographic data and health habits. Ovo-lacto vegetarians and strict vegetarians, as groups, had significantly lower levels of fecal mutagens than non-vegetarians in the TA100 assay. With TA98, only the strict vegetarians had lower levels of mutagens compared to the non-vegetarians. The presence of several different mutagenic compounds was indicated. Significant negative correlations were found with mutagenicity on TA98 for all subjects with the following dietary variables: fruits and juices, fiber and iron. Similar negative correlations were found for total carbohydrate and Southgate fiber intakes and mutagenicity on TA100. Within the group of non-vegetarians, there were negative correlations with mutagenicity on TA98 and total protein and with mutagenicity on TA100 and calcium. With the demographic variables and health habits, no clear pattern emerged to indicate factors which would predict lowered mutagenicity for all subjects. It is concluded that vegetarians have lower levels of fecal mutagenicity and that several dietary factors are likely to contribute to this phenomenon.

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