Colon cancer is defined as cancer of the large intestine or the lower part of your digestive system. This severe health condition is, unfortunately, highly prevalent. According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that 95,520 cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in 2017.
In fact, colorectal cancers account for the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the US. Numerous factors can increase one’s risk of developing colon cancer and consumption of low-fiber diet is one of them. Scientists discovered that fiber-rich diet can, indeed, reduce colon cancer risk. Keep reading to find out more about this widespread health condition and the role of fiber.
Dietary Fiber and Colon Cancer
Ditching the Western diet in favor of high-fiber diet can significantly reduce one’s risk of colon cancer, according to the study carried out by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. The international team of researchers enrolled 20 African American men and women from Pittsburgh and 20 Africans living in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa into the study. It is important to mention that colon cancer is more prevalent among African American individuals.
All participants had their diets scrutinized and scientists analyzed their gut microbiomes. Additionally, volunteers also had to undergo colonoscopy. Scientists performed 2-week food exchanges in the participants from the same populations. African Americans consumed high-fiber and low-fat diet characteristic for the Africa-style eating pattern, while rural Africans consumed high-fat and low-fiber diet characteristic for the US. After two weeks, all participants underwent colonoscopies again.
Findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, showed that volunteers from both groups had major changes in the lining of the colon and its bacterial and chemical makeup. For example, participants from the African-style diet experienced a significant reduction in colon inflammation and other chemical signals associated with colon cancer risk. Moreover, their gut microbiomes generated a greater amount of butyrate, which is a byproduct of fiber metabolism that prevents this severe disease.
On the other hand, people who had to consume Western diet for two weeks showed a decrease in butyrate generation and increased inflammation in the colon. Also, they experienced other changes associated with colon cancer. These findings only add to a growing body of evidence confirming that fiber-rich diet plays an important role in colon cancer prevention.
Chinese scientists investigated the effect of dietary fiber intake on the risk of colorectal cancer, which is the most prevalent cancer in that country. Their research included participants with colon cancer, rectal cancer, colorectal cancer, and healthy controls. All participants had to complete questionnaires about food frequency and diet habits.
Results of the study were published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention and they suggest that vegetable fiber and total fiber play notable roles in protecting against colon, rectal, and colorectal cancer.
Additionally, January 2017 issue of JAMA Oncology featured a research which examined the relationship between prudent diets (rich in fiber and whole grains) and Western diet with colorectal cancer. Harvard Medical School scientists discovered that prudent diets are strongly associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, thus supporting the role of a person’s eating pattern in the prevention of this common disease.
How Fiber Prevents Cancer?
As you can see, eating fiber-rich diet is a great way to reduce the risk of colon cancer. But, you should also bear in mind that fiber acts as an appetite suppressant and keeps you full for longer. As a result, you don’t overeat and it’s easier to deal with cravings. That’s why doctors, scientists, and nutritionists recommend consumption of high-fiber diet for people who want to lose weight.
But, let’s go back to the cancer prevention. You’re probably wondering how fiber prevents colon cancer in the first place. It could be due to the fiber’s tendency to add bulk to your digestive system. As a result, it shortens the amount of time that waste travels through your colon. Since the waste often contains carcinogens, the faster it leaves your body the better. As a result, fiber prevents intestinal cells from getting affected by carcinogens. Moreover, when bacteria in the lower intestine break down fiber, it produces the above-mentioned butyrate. This substance inhibits the growth of tumors in a person’s colon and rectum.
To prevent colon cancer, and improve overall health in general, you should switch from Western diet to a well-balanced eating pattern characterized by a wide array of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, and other important nutrients. Of course, increase fiber consumption by adding these foods to the menu:
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Baked potato with skin
- Bran cereal
Multiple studies have confirmed that high-fiber diets reduce the risk of colon cancer while low-fiber diets increase it. Since rates of colon cancer keep increasing it is necessary to make certain lifestyle adjustments to prevent it, and this also includes ditching unhealthy diet in favor of well-balanced and fiber-rich nutrition.