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Wheat Bran's Possible Role in Fighting Colon Cancer Explored

By Marcia Wood
August 12, 1997

Medical researchers already know raw wheat bran helps laboratory animals battle colon cancer. Could processed wheat bran--the kind humans eat--have the same helpful effect?

Agricultural Research Service scientists in Albany, Calif., and colleagues from Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., have teamed up to find out.

Bran is the thin outer layer of the wheat kernel. Processed bran is used in breakfast cereals, whole-wheat breads and other products.

Kellogg Co., the world's largest maker of breakfast cereals and other grain-based convenience foods, has a cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, with ARS for the investigation. The study is underway at ARS’ Western Regional Research Center in Albany. ARS chemist Wallace H. Yokoyama, with the center's Cereal Product Utilization Research Unit, leads the experiment.

Scientists have known for more than a decade that laboratory animals fed raw wheat bran have fewer cells known as aberrant colonic crypt cells. Aberrant colonic crypt cells are thought to be precancerous. No one knows exactly how the raw bran reduces formation of these cells.

ARS investigators are experimenting with samples of bran processed at their laboratory and at Kellogg Co. They will determine whether lab animals fed the processed wheat bran in place of raw bran have a significantly lower number of aberrant colonic crypt cells. They will also find out if differences in the way wheat bran is processed affect cell turnover--the rate at which the body replaces old colon cells with new. The findings may help them uncover new clues about how wheat bran reduces formation of the aberrant colonic crypt cells.

Scientific contact: Wallace H. Yokoyama, ARS Western Regional Research Center, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, CA 94710, phone (510) 559-5695, fax (510) 559-5777,