12 December 2006

Western diet harms the colon

The high-calorie, low-fibre dietary pattern associated with the western diet is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, says new research from France.

The high-calorie, low-fibre dietary pattern associated with the western diet is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, says new research from France.

In an epidemiological study from researchers at the Institute Gustave Roussy (Inserm, ERI20), the link between dietary patterns and the incidence of colorectal tumours in 516 adenoma cases and 4 804 polyp-free women, and in 172 colorectal cancer cases and 67 312 cancer-free women, was examined.

People with a dietary pattern closely matching the western diet, rich in processed foods and dairy, was found to significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer, said the researchers.

Risk of colorectal adenomas
Lead researcher Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault told FoodNavigator that the new findings "demonstrate that among women with western dietary habits, those with a typical western pattern (high-energy foods, snacks etc.) and those who regularly drink alcohol are at high risk of colorectal adenomas, while those who consume a lot of meat (together with other western habits such as preferential consumption of potatoes rather than vegetables) are at high risk of cancer."

Eighty percent of colorectal cancers may be preventable by dietary changes. It is also one of the most curable cancers if diagnosis is made early.

This is not the first time that such a dietary pattern has been linked to increased risk of the cancer. Indeed, according to the British charity Cancer Research UK: "Countries that have had a rapid 'westernisation' of diet, such as Japan, have seen a rapid increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer. Consumption of meat and dairy products in Japan increased ten-fold between the 1950s and 1990s."

How the research was done
The new research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, was based on the French cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.

Four dietary patterns were identified by the authors and classified as "healthy" (rich in fruit and vegetables, olive oil, and fish), "western" (rich in processed meat, eggs, and butter, potatoes, processed grain products, and cheese), "drinker" (emphasis on alcoholic beverages, snacks, sandwiches and processed meat), and "meat eaters" (meat and poultry).

For those people which diets closely matched the western diet, the researchers calculated that the risk of adenoma was increased by 39 percent, while those with a diet closely matching the "drinker" pattern were associated with an increased adenoma risk of 42 percent, compared to the 'health' pattern.

They also report that the people whose diet most closely matched the meat-eaters pattern were associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer risk of 58 percent, compared to the healthy diet pattern.

Quick assessment
"These findings may help clinicians to rapidly assess if their patients have a high-risk diet and if they should get the proposed screening and/or dietary advice for primary prevention," Dr Boutron-Ruault told this website.

"Dietary patterns that reflect a western way of life are associated with a higher risk of colorectal tumours," concluded the researchers.

The western dietary pattern has also been blamed by some for the obesity epidemic, particularly in children. Indeed, in August US paediatrician Robert Lustig, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco said that the "toxic environment" of western diets causes hormonal imbalances that encourage overeating. - (Decision News Media, December 2006)

Read more:
Omega-3s protect the colon
Grape seed may fight cancer


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