The Food/Cancer Connection

Fall 2013

Dr. SimmenCan certain types of food lower our risk for certain types of cancer? That’s one of the questions that scientist Frank A. Simmen, Ph.D., is attempting to answer in his research lab at UAMS.

Funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, Simmen studies whether a diet high in soy protein can reduce obesity and metabolic syndrome, while having the added benefit of preventing colorectal cancer.

“We have found that by feeding mice a high soy protein diet, they produce less fat tissue. That translates into an altered metabolic state that helps protect against development of gastrointestinal cancers,” said Simmen, professor of physiology in the UAMS Department of Physiology and Biophysics. He added that their findings may potentially lead to improved therapies that combine dietary changes with drug interventions.

While the jury is still out on whether soy foods can in fact prevent cancer, Simmen said they are making a strong case for it, given the known connections between overweight/obesity and cancer.

“We’re trying to see if we can intervene in that link and use what we find to prevent cancer from forming,” Simmen said.