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Effect of dietary calcium on the colonic luminal environment.
  1. G V Appleton,
  2. R W Owen,
  3. E E Wheeler,
  4. D N Challacombe,
  5. R C Williamson
  1. University Department of Surgery, Southmead Hospital, Bristol.


    Dietary supplementation with calcium may prevent the development of colorectal cancer. This mechanism may be related to fatty acid and bile salt chelation in the small bowel forming non-toxic calcium-soap compounds. Calcium may also act locally or systemically on the colonic mucosa. Faecal concentrations of free fatty acids and free bile acids were measured in 17 Sprague-Dawley rats (weighing 472 (39 g)) whose daily calcium intake had been trebled by enriching the chow and adding calcium lactate (24 g/l) to the drinking water. Mean (SEM) faecal concentrations of free bile acids were 33% less than in 19 controls (1.23 (0.15) v 1.82 (0.20) mg/g; p less than 0.001), whereas free fatty acid concentrations were 117% higher (14.68 (3.59) v 6.76 (2.41) mg/g; p less than 0.02). The 'direct' effect of calcium was assessed by organ culture of rat colonic explants in three different concentrations of calcium. Crypt cell production rate (measured by a stathmokinetic technique), which was (mean (SEM)) 4.80 (0.23) cells/crypt/h in control medium (Ca2+ = 2.14 mmol/l), fell by 43% when calcium concentration was doubled (p less than 0.05) and by a further 43% when the concentration was trebled (p less than 0.02). Calcium binds free fatty acids but not free bile acids intraluminally. Calcium has a direct antitropic action on colonic crypts.

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