Even among smokers, people who eat more fibre and yogurt may be less likely to develop lung cancer than those who don’t consume much of these foods, a research review from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee suggests.
Researchers examined pooled data from 10 previous studies that included a total of almost 1.45 million adults in Asia, Europe and the United States. After following people for an average of 8.6 years, 18,822 cases of lung cancer were documented.
Compared to people who never ate yogurt, those who consumed the most yogurt were 19% less likely to develop lung cancer, the analysis found.
People who had the most fibre in their diets, meanwhile, were 17% less likely to develop lung cancer than those who ate the least fibre.
And individuals with the highest fibre intake and highest yogurt consumption were 33% less likely than those with the lowest consumption of both to develop lung cancer.
Link to gut microbiota, inflammation
While the study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that yogurt or fibre protects against lung cancer, it’s possible these kinds of foods might lead to changes in the gut microbiota - the bacteria living in our digestive tract - that help protect against cancer.
It’s also possible that fibre and yogurt may protect against inflammation, which in turn helps reduce the potential for tumours to develop.
Fibre-rich foods typically have lots of prebiotics, non-digestible compounds that can be fermented in the gut and serve as food for beneficial bacteria. Yogurt can contain these beneficial bacteria called probiotics.
Considerable research links the gut microbiota to the immune system overall. And some recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiota may play a role in lung inflammation.
Protective effects seen in smokers, too
The reduced risk of lung cancer associated with fibre and yogurt in the study persisted even after researchers accounted for smoking habits.
For people who never smoked, the lung cancer risk reduction associated with the highest levels of yogurt and fibre intake was 31%, while for smokers it was 24% and for former smokers, 34%.
The researchers point out that they didn’t know what type of fibre people consumed or which types of foods they ate to get their fibre, or the type or fat content of the yogurts people ate.
They also lacked data on some other risk factors for lung cancer, including low income or limited education levels as well as any history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
Even so, the authors conclude it’s worth considering the potential protective effect of yogurt and fibre.
Source: JAMA Oncology, online October 24, 2019.
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