In this new study, the researchers estimated the intake of specific plant compounds in 120,852 men and women, 55 to 69 years old, who filled out dietary surveys as part of a large designed to assess ties between diet and cancer.
After 13 years, 1,444 men and 1,041 women developed colon or rectal cancer.
Compared with those with the lowest intake, adults with the highest intake of plant compounds called catechins seemed to be associated with lower colorectal cancer risk among overweight men and normal weight women only.
Catechins are found in berries, grapes, dark chocolate, tea, red wine, and some beans.
High intake of catechins didn't seem to influence the risk for colorectal cancer when the researchers accounted for uncontrollable factors for colorectal cancer such as age and family history. However, the controllable risk factor of body weight had a significant impact on the effect of the plant compounds.
It appears that overweight men and normal weight women may be more likely benefit from high intake of certain plant compounds.
The researchers observed a similar positive effect on colon cancer risk in normal weight women for another plant compound called flavonoids. Flavonoids are found in onions, kale, apples, pears, tea, wine, and fruit juices.
Plant compounds such as catechins and flavonoids are thought to interfere with cancer-causing processes, notes the study team in the December 15 2009 issue of the International Journal of Cancer.
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