Physical activity as a determinant of fecal bile acid levels

Betsy C. Wertheim, María Elena Martínez, Erin L. Ashbeck, Denise J. Roe, Elizabeth T. Jacobs, David S. Alberts, Patricia A. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Physical activity is protective against colon cancer, whereas colonic bile acid exposure is a suspected risk factor. Although likely related, the association between physical activity and bile acid levels has not been well-studied. Furthermore, the effect of triglycerides, which are known to modify bile acid levels, on this relationship has not been investigated. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of baseline fecal bile acid levels for 735 colorectal adenoma formers obtained from participants in a phase III ursodeoxycholic acid chemoprevention trial. Compared with the lowest quartile of recreational physical activity duration, the highest quartile was associated with a 17% lower fecal bile acid concentration, adjusted for age, sex, dietary fiber intake, and body mass index (P = 0.042). Furthermore, consistent with a previously established relationship between serum triglyceride levels and bile acid metabolism, we stratified by triglyceride level and observed a 34% lower fecal bile acid concentration (highest versus lowest quartiles of physical activity) in individuals with low triglycerides (<136 mg/dL; P = 0.002). In contrast, no association between physical activity and fecal bile acid concentration was observed for subjects with high triglycerides (≥136 mg/dL). Our results suggest that the biological mechanism responsible for the protective effect of physical activity on the incidence of colon cancer may be partially mediated by decreasing colonic bile acid exposure. However, this effect may be limited toindividuals with lower triglyceride levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1591-1598
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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