Colorectal cancer is the third-most common cancer worldwide, and the risk of developing colorectal cancer over a lifetime is one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women.
In a study from Kyung Hee University in South Korea, scientists found eating a plant-based diet rich in healthy plant foods—such as whole grains, vegetables, and legumes—and low in unhealthy plant foods—including refined grains, fruit juices, and added sugars—is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer in men.
The findings suggest that eating a healthy plant-based diet is linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
Although previous research has suggested that plant-based diets may play a role in preventing colorectal cancer, the impact of plant foods’ nutritional quality on this association has been unclear.
In the study, the team analyzed data collected from adults who were recruited from Hawaii and Los Angeles, U.S. to the Multiethnic Cohort Study between 1993 and 1996.
Participants reported their usual food and drink intake during the previous year and the authors assessed whether their diets were high in plant-based foods they classified as healthy—such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes—or unhealthy—for example refined grains, fruit juices, and added sugars—relative to other participants.
The team found that among a population of 79,952 American men, those who ate the highest average daily amounts of healthy plant-based foods had a 22% lower risk of colorectal cancer, compared to those who ate the lowest amounts of healthy plant foods.
However, the authors did not identify any big associations between the nutritional quality of plant-based diets and colorectal cancer risk among a population of 93,475 American women.
They 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.
As men tend to have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than women, we propose that this could help explain why eating greater amounts of healthy plant-based foods was associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk in men but not women.
The authors suggest that future research is needed to investigate the genetic and environmental factors that could influence the association between plant-based food intake and colorectal cancer risk between racial and ethnic groups.
If you care about cancer, please read studies that low-carb diet could increase overall cancer risk, and vitamin D supplements strongly reduces cancer death.
The study was conducted by Jihye Kim et al and published in BMC Medicine.
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