British Journal of Nutrition

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British Journal of Nutrition (2010), 104:355-363 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © The Authors 2010

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Metabolism and Metabolic Studies

Intestinal tumours, colonic butyrate and sleep in exercised Min mice

Laura Basterfielda1 c1 and John C. Mathersa2

a1 Faculty of Medical Sciences, Human Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
a2 Faculty of Medical Sciences, Human Nutrition Research Centre, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
Article author query
basterfield l [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
mathers jc [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


There is strong epidemiological evidence that more physical activity is associated with reduced risk of colon cancer, but the amount or type of activity necessary to invoke this protection is disputed, and the mechanism that is responsible has not been elucidated. The present study compared the effects of two contrasting exercise regimens on intestinal tumourigenesis in Min mice, and investigated two novel mechanistic factors: colonic butyrate and sleep. From 5 weeks of age, Min mice were exercised by running on a treadmill (TR; ≤ 21 m/min, 30–60 min/d, 5 d/week, ≤ 12 weeks). Additional groups of mice were provided with an exercise wheel (WH) or no exercise (CON). Mice had free access to a Western-style, high-fat diet. WH mice ran 3·97 km (females) and 1·92 km (males) daily (P = 0·002). There were no differences in body weight gain or body composition between treatment groups. Treadmill running reduced the numbers of larger ( ≥ 2 mm diameter) tumours (P = 0·042), and tended to reduce tumour multiplicity in the colon (P = 0·049). TR mice had a higher molar proportion of butyrate in colonic digesta than CON mice (P = 0·030), and when treatment groups were combined, there was a weak negative correlation (r − 0·174, P = 0·061) between butyrate molar proportion and total tumour number. In a subset of animals in which non-exercise physical activity was monitored, there were strong positive correlations between sleep duration and both tumour multiplicity (P < 0·001) and tumour burden (P = 0·001). More studies of the effects of sleep and of colonic butyrate in mediating the effects of physical activity on intestinal tumourigenesis are warranted.

(Received October 05 2009)

(Revised January 26 2010)

(Accepted January 28 2010)

(Online publication March 25 2010)

Key Words:Min mice; Exercise; Butyrate; Sleep; Tumours


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Laura Basterfield, fax +44 191 222 5581, email


Abbreviations: CON, control treatment; TR, treadmill treatment; WH, wheel treatment