Dairy proteins protect against dimethylhydrazine-induced intestinal cancers in rats

G. H. McIntosh, G. O. Regester, Richard K. Le Leu, P. J. Royle, G. W. Smithers

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183 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of different dietary protein sources (whey, casein, soybean, red meat) on the incidence, burden and mass index of intestinal tumors induced by dimethylhydrazine in male Sprague-Dawley rats was assessed. A purified diet (based on AIN-76A) with a fat concentration of 20 g/100 g and other proteins substituted for casein (20 g/100 g) was used. Whey and casein diets were more protective against the development of intestinal tumors than were the red meat or soybean diets, as evidenced by a reduced incidence of rats affected (P = 0.15), fewer tumors per treatment group (burden, P < 0.005), and a reduced pooled area of tumors (tumor mass index) that formed (P = 0.39). Intracellular concentration of glutathione, an antioxidant and anticarcinogenic tripeptide, measured in liver, was greatest in whey protein- and casein-fed rats and lowest in soybean-fed animals (P < 0.001). For other tissues (spleen, colon, tumor) the differences were not significant, although the whey-fed animals had the highest concentrations of glutathione (P = 0.8). Whey is a source of precursors (cysteine-rich proteins) for glutathione synthesis and may be important in providing protection to the host by stimulating glutathione synthesis. A positive correlation was observed between mean fecal fat concentrations for rats in each treatment group and large intestinal tumor burden (r2 = 0.898, P = 0.05). Fecal fat could be involved in aiding initiation and/or promotion of carcinogenesis. Whatever the mechanism(s), dairy proteins, and whey proteins in particular, offer considerable protection to the host against dimethylhydrazine-induced tumors relative to the other protein sources examined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-816
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • dietary proteins
  • fecal fat
  • glutathione
  • intestinal cancers
  • rats


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