Role of dietary fibre in the prevention of colon cancer questioned by recent study

October 17, 2000 in Cancer Prevention, Healthy Eating

Role of dietary fibre in the prevention of colon cancer questioned by recent study

Evidence is mounting that fibre might not prevent colon cancer after all. In fact a new study suggests that one type of supplement might even harm the colon. In the study, published last week in The Lancet medical journal, European researchers found that precancerous growths, or polyps, were slightly more likely to recur in those taking a certain fibre supplement -- ispaghula husk, a compound similar to psyllium that is not part of the average diet.

The study involved 552 Europeans who previously had precancerous growths in the bowel and found that 29 percent of those receiving the supplement got at least one new tumor within three years. That compares with 20 percent of those who took the placebo treatment.

Researchers note that these findings demonstrate the difficulty of trying to figure out the relationship between nutrition and disease. Fibre is a complex material; there are various types and they all could act differently. The American Cancer Society will revisit its recommendations on fibre and colon cancer in light of the growing body of evidence eroding support for the theory that it wards off the disease.

Experts recommend a low fat, high-fibre diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains because it has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some other cancers. However, the cause of colorectal cancer is very far from understood.

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