Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Increase your fiber intake

If you have colorectal cancer, eating more fiber still helps

Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent type of cancer. It accounts for 10 percent of cases worldwide. This cancer can greatly reduce quality of life. Studies suggest that environmental factors cause most cases. Convincing risk factors include alcohol, processed red meat, and unprocessed red meat.

A recent review and meta-analysis investigated the protective effect of total and different types of dietary fiber. Long-term studies showed that each 10-gram increase in total or cereal fiber intake significantly predicted a 10 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, compared to subjects who ate less than 10 grams of total or cereal fiber daily.

Thus, persons who consumed 30 grams of total dietary fiber daily had a 30 percent lower risk. Subjects who consumed more than three servings of cereal fiber (90 grams) daily had a 20 percent significantly lower risk. Compared to study subjects with less than the average daily intake of whole grains, those who ate more than the average had a 21 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Vegetable, fruit, and legume fiber did not significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. While each type of fiber helps protect against certain diseases, fiber from whole grains (cereals) provides the greatest protection for colorectal cancer.

If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, does eating more fiber reduce your risk of dying from it? Researchers at Harvard addressed this question with data from 1,575 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All of these people exhibited colorectal cancer. Happily, increasing fiber intake reduced the risk of dying from and from all causes combined.

Specifically, after accounting for potentially confounding factors, each 5-gram per day increase in fiber intake predicted a 22 and 14 percent lower risk of premature death from colorectal cancer and from all causes, respectively. But the type of fiber mattered. Each 5-gram per day increase in cereal fiber (for example, from eating a half-cup of oatmeal made from thick rolled oats) predicted a 33 and 22 percent lower risk of death from colorectal cancer and from all causes, respectively. Higher intake of fruit fiber predicted a 17 percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality but not death from colorectal cancer after its diagnosis .

The take-home message is simple. Eat more fiber, especially from whole grains.

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