A Fiber-Rich Diet may Protect Against Cancer

A Fiber-Rich Diet may Protect Against Cancer
By Alana Gold, Registered Dietitian

High fiber or not high fiber that is the question. The controversy over whether a fiber-rich diet wards off colon cancer has been widely debated for many years. After several studies failed to show a benefit, new research has shown that a high-fiber diet may indeed reduce the risk of colon cancer.

The latest research
In a recent US study published in The Lancet (Vol. 361: 1491-1496), researchers looked at the fiber intake of 3,600 people who had precancerous growths in the colon and compared it with that of approximately 3,400 people who did not. People who ate the most fiber (about 36 grams per day) had a 27% lower risk of precancerous growths than those who ate the least fiber (about 12 grams per day).

In a second study, researchers examined the association between fiber and colon cancer in over half a million people from 10 European countries. Subjects were followed for an average of 4.5 years. During this time 1,065 people developed colon cancer. The study found that those who ate the most fiber, about 35 grams a day, had approximately 40% lower risk of colon cancer compared with those who ate the least fiber, about 15 grams per day.

It is not exactly clear why fiber appeared to have a protective effect in these studies but not in previous equally well conducted research. One major difference between the current and past studies is the inclusion of more diverse populations, who eat different types of fiber from each other and in vastly varying amounts. It could also be true that the fiber-rich eaters" in the current studies practiced additional preventative health steps that helped reduce their risk.

What Should You Do?
It is best to fortify your diet with fiber-rich foods to help protect against colon cancer as well as many other conditions, such as heart disease, constipation and diverticulosis.

Consider the following Truestar tips:
1. Choose whole grain breads, cereals, pasta and rice. A product is labeled as a: Very high source of fiber if it contains at least 6 grams of dietary fiber per serving; High source of fiber if it contains at least 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving; and Source of fiber if it contains at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

2. Enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruits with the skin when appropriate. Have fiber-filled fruits and veggies such as carrots and apples as snacks.

3. Bulk up on bran. Sprinkle or mix one or two tablespoons of wheat bran into foods like hot or cold cereals, yogurt, puddings, thick soups, meatloaf or casseroles.

4. Enjoy vegetarian meals with beans, peas and lentils. Add beans to salads, stews and soups. Try the Truestar winter white bean salad.

5. Add one or two tablespoons of whole or ground flaxseed to yogurt, cereals and baked goods. Try Nature's Path Flax Plus cereal, which contains 7 grams of fiber per serving.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and increase your fiber intake gradually to give your body a chance to get used to it. Too much too soon can cause bloating, gas and discomfort.