Eating whole grains have been tied to a lower risk of death, an increased metabolism and improved heart function. But now a new study has found another benefit of eating whole grains – it helps lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
In fact, the more you eat, the lower the risk, researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) say.
However, the study also found that processed meats – like hot dogs and bacon for example – increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
“Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, yet this report demonstrates there is a lot people can do to dramatically lower their risk,” study’s lead author Edward Giovannucci said in a statement. “The findings from this comprehensive report are robust and clear: diet and lifestyle have a major role in colorectal cancer.”
Researchers analyzed 99 studies from around the world, which included data on more than 29 million people – a quarter million of which were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
From the data, researchers were able to determine other factors that impacted one’s chance of developing the cancer, as well.
According to the findings, eating about three servings (90 grams) of whole grains a day decreased the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 per cent.
They also found that exercising helps in reducing the risk of colon cancer in particular, but no link was apparent with rectal cancer.
Other dietary links were “visible” between fish, fruits and vegetable intake and decreased chances of colorectal cancer, but they weren’t as clear, researchers say.
However, eating high amounts of red meat (above 500 grams cooked weight a week) like beef or pork, being overweight or obese and consuming two or more daily alcoholic drinks like wine or beer were all found to increase one’s chances of developing the cancer.
“When it comes to cancer there are no guarantees, but it’s clear now there are choices you can make and steps you can take to lower your risk of colorectal cancer and other cancers,” Alice Bender, AICR director of nutrition programs, said in a statement.
Other studies in the past have looked into risk factors associated with colorectal cancer.
One 2017 study by the Cleveland Clinic found a link between unhealthy lifestyle and an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Researchers found that those who exercised more, ate a healthy diet and did not smoke were less likely to have a history of the cancer or colon polyps (an inherited condition usually caused by a mutation of the APC gene, the Canadian Cancer Society outlines).
The Canadian Cancer Society also lists a low-fibre diet, sedentary behaviour, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, tall adult height and exposure to ionizing radiation as other possible risk factors.
Colorectal cancer is the 2nd most diagnosed cancer in Canada and the 2nd leading cause of death from cancer in men, and the 3rd leading cause of death from cancer in women, the Canadian Cancer Society reports.
It’s estimated that 26,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with the cancer and 9,400 Canadians will die from it this year.