Specific foods in Mediterranean diet beneficial for colorectal health

July 7, 2017 in Cancer Prevention, Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

Specific foods in Mediterranean diet beneficial for colorectal health

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet are well-known when it comes to colorectal protection, but it's hard to know specifically what elements of the diet are the healthiest.

Now a new study, presented at the ESMO 19th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer suggests loading up on fish and fruit, and cutting back on soft drinks are the three most important things.

The researchers, from Tel-Aviv Medical Center, found that each one of these three choices was associated with a little more than 30% reduced risk of a person having an advanced, pre-cancerous colorectal lesion, compared to people who did not eat any of these Mediterranean diet components. Among people who made all three healthy choices the benefit was compounded to almost 86% reduced odds.

Related: Eating nuts may cut risk of colon cancer recurrence

Colorectal cancer can develop from adenomas, benign polyps that form in the large intestine. The cancer has been linked to a low-fibre diet heavy on red meat, alcohol and high-calorie foods.

And while the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower rates of colorectal cancer, the definition of what elements in the diet are the most beneficial, has not always been clear.

About the study

Using dietary questionnaires from 808 people who were undergoing screening or diagnostic colonoscopies, the research team was able to dig down to look at the fine details of their daily meals.

All subjects were between 40 and 70 years old, without high risk of colorectal cancer, and answered a food frequency questionnaire.

Adherence to the Mediterranean diet components was defined as consumption levels above the group median for fruits, vegetables and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and poultry and a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids, as well consumption below the median of red meat, alcohol, and soft drinks.

High fish and fruit intake, low soft drinks best combo

The investigators found that compared to subjects with clear colonoscopies, those who had advanced polyps reported fewer components of the Mediterranean diet (a mean of 1.9 versus 4.5 components). Even consumption of two to three components of the diet, compared to none, was associated with half the odds of advanced polyps.

The risk was reduced in a dose response manner with additional Mediterranean diet components -- meaning that the more Mediterranean diet components people adhered, the lower their risk of having advanced colorectal polyps.

After accounting for other colorectal cancer risk factors, including other dietary components, the researchers narrowed in on high fish and fruit and low soft drinks as the best combo for reduced odds of advanced colorectal polyps.

Source: European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)

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