Colorectal cancer is quite common, especially among the aging population. Diet is an important risk factor for colorectal cancer, and food choices are also key during and after treatment. Here is an overview of the diets to favor and those that are better to avoid to prevent the risk of colorectal cancer.
What does a good diet look like to prevent colorectal cancer and to facilitate cancer treatment?
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the rectum, colon or both. It is also called the large intestine. This type of cancer is more likely to appear in older people, but there are many other risk factors associated with its emergence, such as genetics and lifestyle factors. Among the latter, one of the most cited risk factors is diet, with specific reference to poor eating habits that often also lead to obesity. Below we look at the foods and nutrients believed to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, as well as the types of diets that have been found to help prevent it. We also discuss the diets most likely to preserve the body’s resistance during and after treatment for this type of cancer.
Prevention: What to Avoid
Numerous studies have indicated that a diet too rich in red meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Red meat is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all mammalian muscle meat, including beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat”. It is known that eating a lot of red meat significantly increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
A review of the evidence supporting this link notes that “Red meat consumption could be linked directly to the incidence of colorectal cancer or indirectly because a diet high in meat tends to be low in vegetables, fruits and fiber. “. A study in northern Italian populations showed that people who frequently ate red meat with eggs, cheese and other fatty foods, as well as refined starches, had almost twice the risk. of developing rectal or colon cancer than their peers who favored a plant-based diet.
More recent research has also found that a daily increase of 100 grams of any meat or red meat is associated with a significant 12-17% increase in the risk of colorectal cancer.
In 2015, a report published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer made the news by pointing out that each 50 gram serving of processed meat, such as bacon or salami, consumed each day increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. This evidence has led the WHO to classify processed meats as “carcinogenic to humans”. The damage caused by unhealthy diets made headlines again in early 2018, when a study published in The BMJ reported that “ultra-processed foods” may increase the risk of developing various types of cancer.
Prevention: What to eat?
So if high consumption of red meat and processed foods contributes to colorectal cancer risk, what should we eat to protect our bodies from this outcome?
To reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, eat a healthy diet that favors fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber could help minimize the risk, and many existing studies seem to support this advice. A study found that vegetarian-type diets are linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer. Researchers studied four types of plant-based diets. It is :
– vegan, or strictly without animal products
– lacto-ovo-vegetarian, which includes dairy and eggs but not meat
– the pesco-vegetarian, which includes fish but not meat
– semi-vegetarian, which includes meat and fish on an occasional basis.
These four plant-based diets were found to be less likely to cause cancer than non-vegetarian diets.
A study last year also suggests that the more colorful your meal, the better, and that people should strive to incorporate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables into their diet.
Specifically, their experiments in the pig model, which bears the closest resemblance to the human body in terms of metabolic processes, indicated that purple potatoes may protect against colon cancer. This could be because these root vegetables contain compounds that reduce levels of certain pro-inflammatory proteins in the body, and inflammation has been known to contribute to colon cancer risk.
Recently, researchers have also isolated a number of elements typical of Mediterranean-style diets that may help prevent the onset of colorectal cancer. People at low risk of developing the condition ate lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, as well as fish and poultry, rather than red meat, and drank little alcohol and soft drinks.
What to eat during and after treatment
People undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer should also favor “rainbow plate” meals and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to support their immune system.
Research published last year in JAMA Oncology suggests that a diet high in fiber sources may improve survival rates for patients with stage 1 colorectal cancer. Whole grain consumption was also linked to better therapeutic outcome, the researchers noted.
Another study from last year indicates that eating a minimum of about 57 grams of nuts, such as cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios, almost halves the risk of colon cancer recurrence. in people who have undergone treatment for stage three cancer. Nut consumption also reduced the risk of death after treatment by 53%.
As for the risk of developing a second cancer after treatment, it can be reduced by making the same healthy food choices as those advised for the prevention of a first cancer. These include maintaining a healthy weight, emphasizing “plant foods” in daily meals, and avoiding alcohol consumption.
Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat
Diet and colorectal cancer
Food consumption and cancer of the colon and rectum in north-eastern Italy
Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort
Risk Model for Colorectal Cancer in Spanish Population Using Environmental and Genetic Factors: Results from the MCC-Spain study
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