The reported inverse association between the intake of plant-based foods and a reduction in the prevalence of colorectal cancer may be partly mediated by interactions between insoluble fibre and (poly)phenols and the intestinal microbiota. In the present study, we assessed the impact of palm date consumption, rich in both polyphenols and fibre, on the growth of colonic microbiota and markers of colon cancer risk in a randomised, controlled, cross-over human intervention study. A total of twenty-two healthy human volunteers were randomly assigned to either a control group (maltodextrin–dextrose, 37·1 g) or an intervention group (seven dates, approximately 50 g). Each arm was of 21 d duration and was separated by a 14-d washout period in a cross-over manner. Changes in the growth of microbiota were assessed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation analysis, whereas SCFA levels were assessed using HPLC. Further, ammonia concentrations, faecal water genotoxicity and anti-proliferation ability were also assessed using different assays, which included cell work and the Comet assay. Accordingly, dietary intakes, anthropometric measurements and bowel movement assessment were also carried out. Although the consumption of dates did not induce significant changes in the growth of select bacterial groups or SCFA, there were significant increases in bowel movements and stool frequency (P<0·01; n 21) and significant reductions in stool ammonia concentration (P<0·05; n 21) after consumption of dates, relative to baseline. Furthermore, date fruit intake significantly reduced genotoxicity in human faecal water relative to control (P<0·01; n 21). Our data indicate that consumption of date fruit may reduce colon cancer risk without inducing changes in the microbiota.