Enjoy a Mediterranean diet for colorectal health

The right choices can reduce some risks by more than 85%.

Steamed fish with carrots (photo credit: BOAZ LAVI)
Steamed fish with carrots
(photo credit: BOAZ LAVI)
The most important lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer are to eat more fish and fruit and minimize consumption of soft drinks. So said Dr. Naomi Fliss-Isakov of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center at the European Society of Medical Oncology 19th World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer currently being held in Madrid.
“We found that each one of these three choices was associated with a little more than 30% reduced odds of a person having an advanced, precancerous colorectal lesion, compared to people who did not eat any of these components,” she said. “Among people who made all three healthy choices, the benefit was compounded to almost 86% reduced odds.”
Colorectal cancer develops from intestinal polyps and has been linked to a low-fiber diet heavy in red meat, alcohol and high-calorie foods, Fliss-Isakov said.
And while the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower rates of colorectal cancer, the definition of what elements in the diet are the most beneficial has not always been clear.
Using dietary questionnaires from 808 people between the ages of 40 and 70 who were undergoing screenings or diagnostic colonoscopies, the research team was able to look at the fine details of the respondents’ daily meals. None of the subjects had a high risk of colorectal cancer.
Adherence to the components was defined as consumption levels above the group median for fruits, vegetables and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and poultry and a high ratio of mono-unsaturated to saturated fatty acids, as well as below the median consumption of red meat, alcohol and soft drinks.
The investigators found that compared to subjects with clear colonoscopies, those who had advanced polyps reported fewer components of the Mediterranean diet. Yet even consumption of two to three components of the diet, compared to none, was associated with half the odds of advanced polyps.
Odds were reduced in a dose response manner with additional Mediterranean diet components – meaning that the more components people adhered, the lower their odds of having advanced colorectal polyps.