Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Korry J. Hintze


Korry J. Hintze


Jeffery Hall


Mirella Meyer-Ficca


Robert E. Ward


Dirk Vanderwall


Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the US and risk is on the rise for both middle aged and young adults. Although the Western dietary pattern is responsible for the majority of colorectal cancer incidence, Americans routinely consume highly processed foods that are rich in calories yet lacking essential nutrients. Many foods, like green tea, contain components that promote health and fight disease.Recent findings suggest that lifestyle factors, including nutrition, may also impact future generations of offspring and change the way genes function in our cells, without changes the genes themselves. We hypothesized that ancestral exposure to a Western diet would promote colorectal cancer in great-grand offspring that would be reversed by green tea extract supplementation and that these health outcomes would be reflected by the expression of genes related to cancer. To explore this, we fed mice a Western diet during all four generations (cumulative), only the fourth generation (direct), or only the first generation (transgenerational) and compared them to those that consumed a healthy control diet during all four generations. The fourth generation were provided either green tea extract or plain drinking water. Transgenerational Western diet exposure increased colorectal cancer occurrence and dysregulated a number of genes related to immune function and inflammation. This outcome was worsened by cumulative Western diet intake and occurred without affecting body weight or fat mass. Green tea extract reduced the number and size of tumors in all Western diet groups. This study is the first to investigate how diet induced transgenerational inheritance affects colorectal cancer outcome. Our findings suggest that we may be at the mercy of our ancestor’s dietary choices, however, dietary interventions with health promoting foods may provide protection against disease.



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