Epidemiological studies indicate that caloric intake and dietary fat content influence colonic carcinogenesis. In rodents, caloric restriction reduces, and some fats increase, carcinogen-induced colon cancer incidence. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of caloric restriction on colonic cell proliferation (CCP) in carcinogen-treated or control rats fed low- or high-fat diets. F344 rats were treated with azoxymethane (15 mg/kg ×2) and then fed an isocaloric AIN 76A diet containing either 5 or 23% corn oil, ad libitum or calorie-restricted to 70 or 80% of the kilocalories consumed by ad libitum rats. Biopsies of the distal colon were taken at 10 and 20 weeks, and rats were sacrificed at 21 or 34 weeks on the experimental diets. Distal CCP was determined by microautoradiography after [3H]thymidine labeling in vitro or presacrifice administration in vivo. The labeling index and number of labeled cells per crypt column were significantly reduced by caloric restriction at all time points (10, 20, 21, 34 weeks). Caloric restriction reduced CCP in high fat- and low fat-fed rats and in azoxymethane-treated and control rats. High fat resulted in decreased CCP in the distal colon compared to low fat at 34 weeks but not earlier. The finding indicate that: (a) caloric restriction is effective in favorably modulating CCP, an intermediate biomarker of colon cancer risk; (b) a high fat ad libitum diet, which increased tumor yield, does not increase distal colon proliferation; (c) dietary fat intake alters proliferation in a manner differing from that induced by changing dietary caloric intake.

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This work was supported in part by NIH Grants AG00124, CA17613, and CA37663, the American Cancer Society, and the Overseas Maritime Corporation.

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