Eating a diet high in fiber, particularly from cereal and whole grains, is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, according to a new study published Thursday by BMJ.
Intake of dietary fiber and whole grains is known to help protect against cardiovascular disease, but its association with colorectal cancer risk has been less clear. And, although the idea that dietary fiber reduces the risk of colorectal cancer has been around for nearly 40 years, studies attempting to explain the association have not had consistent results.
But the results of the new British study now provide further support for public health recommendations to increase fiber intake to help prevent colorectal cancer. Whole grain foods include whole grain breads and cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, and oat meal.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide with 1.2 million new cases diagnosed each year. A team of UK and Dutch researchers set out to investigate the association between intake of dietary fiber and whole grains and risk of colorectal cancer as part of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s Continuous Update Project. They analysed the results of 25 studies involving almost two million participants.
The results show that, although the overall reductions in risk of colorectal cancer were small, there was a clear reduction in risk associated with the amount of dietary fiber a person ate. Each 10 gram per day increase in total dietary fiber was linked to a 10 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. Adding three servings of whole grains was associated with about a 20 percent reduction.
Increasing dietary fiber and whole grains is also likely to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, and possibly overall mortality, thus there are several health benefits by increasing fiber intake and replacing refined grains with whole grains, researchers noted.