Colorectal cancer: plant-based diet linked to lower risk in men

Colorectal cancer: plant-based diet linked to lower risk in men

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More and more evidence is emerging to support the idea that a healthy plant-based diet is linked to a lower risk of bowel cancer. Image credit: Jimena Roquero/Stocksy.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States.
  • The risk of developing colorectal cancer is increased by being overweight or obese, smoking, and a diet high in red or processed meats.
  • According to existing research, including plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables in your diet can reduce this risk.
  • A large study has now found that, in men, a diet rich in healthy plant-based foods is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel, colon or rectal cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed and the second deadliest cancer in the United States.

Most people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over 50, although it can affect younger people as well.

In recent years, cases in the elderly have begun to decline, but the incidence in young people increase. However, these changes may be due to more effective cancer screening.

The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age. Other risk factors that people cannot influence are a family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease – such as Crohn’s disease – and certain genetic syndromes.

However, many lifestyle factors also influence a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Factors that may increase risk to understand:

  • a diet low in fiber, fruits and vegetables
  • lack of physical activity
  • a diet high in fat and red or processed meat
  • overweight and obesity
  • tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption.

Several studies studied the relationship between diet and colorectal cancer, finding that the typical Western diet that is high in fat, red meat and processed meat increases the risk.

Reducing these foods and increasing foods high in dietary fiber are associated with reduced risk.

Plant-based foods tend to be high in dietary fiber, but only in their unprocessed state.

Now, a study published in BMC Medicine found that a diet high in healthy plant-based foods — whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables — is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer in men.

Unhealthy plant-based foods – refined grains, fruit juices and added sugars – had no beneficial effect on cancer risk.

“This US study adds to much existing evidence on the benefits of a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber for both men and women.”

– Beth Vincent, Head of Health Information, Cancer Research UK (CRUK)

The study group included 79,952 men and 93,475 women who were followed for an average of 19.2 years. All participants were from Hawaii or the Los Angeles area and were between the ages of 45 and 75 at the time of registration. The group included African American, Japanese American, Native Hawaiian, Latino, and white volunteers.

At the start of the study, researchers assessed participants’ usual diet using a self-reported questionnaire.

Participants were asked how often and how much they ate from more than 180 different foods and beverages. They chose from four serving size options and frequencies ranging from never to four times a day.

From the responses, the researchers calculated daily energy and nutrient intakes, then calculated three plant-based diet indices – overall (PDI), healthy (hPDI), and unhealthy (uPDI).

Researchers have defined whole grains, fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, legumes, tea and coffee as healthy plant-based foods. Less healthy plant-based foods included refined grains, fruit juices, potatoes, and added sugars.

To achieve a high hPDI score, participants had to have a high intake of healthy plant-based foods and a low intake of less healthy plant-based foods.

Overall, plant-based diets, particularly healthy plant-based diets, were associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer in men, but not in women. Unhealthy plant-based diets did not appear to reduce the risk.

For healthy plant-based diets, the association was stronger among American men of Japanese, Hawaiian, and white descent than among those in other groups.

The researchers suggest that “benefits of plant-based diets may vary by gender, race and ethnicity, and anatomical tumor subsite.”

The study had a large sample size, long follow-up period, and racial and ethnic diversity in the study population. However, the authors acknowledge some limitations of the study, including possible selection bias in responses to questionnaires and negative scoring of all foods of animal origin.

Several other studies have shown that certain animal foods may actually be beneficial. Two reviews found that both fish and dairy products may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Beth Vincent argued that the results of the study should be viewed with caution:

“Research has tried to compare ‘healthy plant foods’ and ‘unhealthy plant foods’ and found a link to bowel cancer in men. But due to the design of the study, the authors themselves acknowledge that we cannot read too much into their results. The study relied on people remembering what they ate up to a year ago. He also assumed that participants’ diets remained the same for many years and that all meats and animal products were unhealthy, which is not the case.

This study adds to growing evidence that diet and lifestyle play a key role in cancer risk.

Vincent agreed with the following advice: “A balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of cancer. Not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and staying safe in the sun are other important ways to reduce your risk of cancer.

A study suggests that up to 35% of cancers are diet-related. And diet can greatly affect the risk of colorectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends that to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, a person should include plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and limit the amount of meat they eat.

Professor Jihye Kim, from Kyung Hee University, who is one of the authors of the study, says that:

“We speculate that antioxidants found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by suppressing chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer. As men tend to have higher risk of colorectal cancer than women, we propose that this may help explain why consuming greater amounts of healthy plant-based foods was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer in men but not in women. women.

The authors’ conclusion that “improving the quality of plant foods and reducing the consumption of animal foods can help prevent colorectal cancer” is perhaps a little optimistic, but their study certainly adds to the evidence that a healthy diet can help reduce the overall risk of cancer.

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