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Go Further with Food

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How food plays a role in lowering colon cancer risk

In honor of both National Nutrition Month as well as Colorectal Cancer Month, we’re focusing on how to go further with food when it comes to colon cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.

A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests that a diet rich in powerful vitamins and antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids may be effective in preventing colon cancer and other chronic conditions. In this study, researchers focused on nutrients found in whole foods, specifically the purple flesh potato due to its anthocyanin content. They found that supplementing a high calorie diet, known to cause inflammation, with 10% purple potato suppressed a pro inflammatory marker found in the gut (called IL6) which is correlated with growth of cancer cells. Ultimately suggesting staple crops rich in anthocyanins should be considered as part of treatment for inflammation and related cancers. Many foods that contain these powerful components also made the recently published BBC list of the world’s most nutritious whole foods.

That said, low intake of these foods coupled with sedentary lifestyle can increase risk of conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and some cancers including colon. Here are some strategies to lower your risk:

  1. Fill up on fiber rich foods. Aim for 25-35g/day from fruits like bananas and pineapples, vegetables and whole grains.  This naturally helps you avoid a high calorie diet, because these foods are less energy dense than processed alternatives.
  2. Go Mediterranean.  This diet centered on fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains has been linked to lower risk of colorectal cancer. It’ll also ensure that you’re getting a variety of the micronutrients discussed above.
  3. Make lifestyle changes! Quit smoking, stay away from secondhand smoke, get plenty of physical activity and eat healthy!
  4. The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer – that’s why it’s so important to get screened.

Published March 1, 2018

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