In Europe, approximately 75 000 citizens die from colon cancer each year, a significant financial and social burden on Member States. Recent studies have revealed a link between the preventive effect of naturally occurring dietary plant polyphenols on cancer formation and how the compounds could protect us against harmful reactions in human cells.
To investigate this phenomenon further a 3 year European-funded project called "Health implications of natural non-nutrient antioxidants (polyphenols); bioavailability and colon carcinogenesis" started in 2000. The project, a co-operative partnership, was established between 13 institutions in six EU member countries.
The expected achievements from the programme include the study of the digestion of polyphenols in human gut and their effect on gut microflora and the doses of polyphenols to optimise protection against colon cancer will also be determined.
The information gained is expected to facilitate the safe development of tasty novel foods with altered contents of polyphenols.
According to a recent paper written by Mr Kiutamo from Finnish food research organisation VTT Biotechnology, there are large differences in consumption of amount and type of polyphenols between North and South Europe, with lower risks associated with the Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables.
The project, led by Professor Ian Johnson at the UK Institute of Food Research, is due to be completed by the end of 2002.