CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM. Researchers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge have just published a fascinating report linking a high consumption of meat and processed foods to ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and colon cancer. The researchers found that sulphur bacteria in the gut flourish on a diet high in meat protein and sulphur preservatives used in processed foods, salad bars, packaged salads, and many fermented beverages. They also discovered that most people with colitis (96 per cent of patients tested) had sulphur bacteria in their gut while only 50 per cent of healthy people harboured these bacteria. The researchers are not sure whether the damage to the colon is caused by the sulphur bacteria actually invading the cells in the walls of the intestine or by the release of highly toxic hydrogen sulfide during the bacteria's anerobic digestion of meat proteins. They suspect that toxic sulfides released by the bacteria may damage the DNA in gut cells and promote colon cancer. Dr. John Cummings of the Dunn Nutrition Unit points out that although vegetable proteins also contain sulphur compounds they do not seem to support the growth of the sulphur bacteria, perhaps because they are associated with large amounts of carbohydrates. Another important dietary source of raw material for the sulphur bacteria is a large family of sulphur additives used in processed foods and drinks - from sausages and burgers to instant soups, dried raisins, and jams. The team at the Dunn Nutrition Unit is currently working on determining how much sulphur people typically consume from meats and sulphur additives. They point out that the harmful sulphur bacteria can be killed off by limiting their supply of sulphur from meat proteins, processed foods, and food additives.
Vines, Gail. A gut feeling. New Scientist, August 8, 1998, pp. 26-30