Diet and colorectal cancer: what do we know and what can we do to prevent it?

Aprox. 3 minutes reading time

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. It seems that being overweight and obese increase the risk of developing this disease, as well as alcohol and smoking. Therefore, diet is the main factor in this problem, and over time scientific studies have identified certain elements that seem to be related to colon health: meat (especially processed or red), dairy, calcium, fiber and folate .

Ecological analyzes show a number of striking correlations between meat consumption and colorectal cancer rates. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans and unprocessed red meat as likely to be carcinogenic, based in part on a meta-analysis that reports a 17% increased risk for each increase. 50g daily consumption of processed meat and 18% for each 100g increase in red meat consumption. Recent systematic reviews have reported lower increases in the risk for unprocessed red meat.

Chemicals used to preserve processed meat, such as nitrates and nitrites, could increase the gut’s exposure to mutagenic N-nitrose compounds. Cooking meat at high temperatures can generate mutagenic heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. However, it is not clear whether any of these supposed mechanisms explain the association between eating red meat / processed meat and the risk of colorectal cancer.

On the other hand, high milk and calcium consumption was associated with a moderate reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. Calcium could be protective by forming complexes with secondary bile acids and heme in the intestinal lumen. Higher circulating concentrations of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk, but this could be confused with other factors, such as physical activity.

In the 1970s, surgeon DP Burkitt suggested that low rates of colorectal cancer in parts of Africa were the result of high dietary fiber intake . Other analyzes suggest that cereal fiber and whole grains are protective, but not fiber from fruits or vegetables.

Folate intakehas been associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. For those who don’t know, folate is nothing but vitamin B9 in its natural state. Its name comes from the Latin “folium”, which means leaf, and leafy vegetables are among the best food sources of folate. Although it appears that folate intake has a positive influence on colon health, it is believed that high folate status could promote the growth of colorectal tumors. It is not yet clear whether folate or folic acid has a material impact on the risk of colorectal cancer. Most randomized studies of folic acid supplementation have found no effect, and although studies of the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase gene have shown that folate with lower circulation is associated with a slightly lower risk,

The conclusion we can draw is this: both the health of the colon and the whole body is based on a well thought out and balanced diet, which contains an optimal level of each essential macronutrient. The easiest way to achieve this balance is with the help of the Dahna application, inspired by the Mediterranean diet, which for years has been considered the healthiest diet in the world. Download it now for free from the AppStore or Google Play !

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