Healthy Plant-Based Diets May Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer - EMJ

Healthy Plant-Based Diets May Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

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HEALTHY plant-based diets have been linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer in males in a recent study. It is known that the risk of colorectal cancer is increased by age, inflammatory bowel diseases, certain genetic syndromes, and family history. Further, some life style factors can also increase the risk, including lack of physical activity; overweight and obesity; a diet low in fibre, fruit, and vegetables; and tobacco use or heavy alcohol consumption. New data shows that a diet with healthy plant-based foods lowers the risk of colorectal cancer in males.

The study included 17,952 males and 93,475 females aged between 45 years and 75 years, and the participants were followed for an average of 19.2 years. Their diet was assessed at the start of the study through a self-reported questionnaire. They were asked to report how much and how often they ate items from a list of 180 foods and beverages. The researchers then calculated nutrient intakes and daily energy, and calculated three plant-based diet indices (PDI): the unhealthful PDI, healthful PDI, and overall PDI. Healthy plant-based foods included fruits, vegetables, legumes, coffee, tea, vegetable oils, and whole grains. Less healthy foods included added sugars, potatoes, fruit juices, and refined grains. A higher quantity of healthy plant-based foods and a low quantity of less healthy foods led to a higher healthful PDI score.

In males, healthy plant-based diets were linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. This association was not found in females and unhealthy plant-based diets did not decrease this risk. The researchers suggested that “the benefits from plant-based diets may vary by sex, race and ethnicity, and anatomic subsite of tumour,” as the association was found to be stronger in Japanese American, Native Hawaiian, and White Male participants than in others. Author Jihye Kim, Kyung Hee University Seoul, South Korea, stated: “We speculate that the antioxidants found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could contribute to lowering colorectal cancer risk by suppressing chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer.”

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