A very large proportion of colon cancer cases are related to certain facets of our lifestyle. The composition of the diet has a great influence on the risk of developing various types of cancer. Nothing illustrates this relationship better than the high incidence of colon cancer now seen in industrialized countries.
In fact, it is now established that approximately 75% of colon cancers are directly related to the typical diet of industrialized societies, that is, high in saturated fats of animal origin (meat, dairy products), low in fruits, vegetables and fiber, and often characterized by an excessive caloric intake with the consequent increased risk of obesity.
Changing this type of diet is, therefore, an essential requirement to reduce mortality associated with colon cancer.
Studies to date have identified several dietary factors that can significantly reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
These foods are an essential facet of any colon cancer prevention strategy through diet, as people who consume them in large quantities have around half the risk of developing the disease. Among the most active vegetables against this cancer are cruciferous vegetables, particularly broccoli, as well as those of the garlic and onion family.
In both cases, these vegetables reduce the amount of carcinogenic substances formed by the bacteria of our intestinal flora, which reduces the formation of abnormal cells that can degenerate into cancer. In addition, recent studies carried out on cells isolated from colon tumors show that certain molecules present in these vegetables also have the ability to kill cancer cells already present, a phenomenon that could obviously help prevent the development of this cancer.
2 Fibers but not just any fiber
It should also be noted that while fiber intake has been suggested as an important factor in the prevention of colon cancer for several years, the data accumulated since then shows that the reality is much more complex. In fact, it appears that not all dietary fiber has the same protective effect, as evidenced by the results of a recent study that found grain fiber to be ineffective in preventing colon cancer.
However, it seems that another category of fibers present in certain plants, lignans, could contribute to the prevention of this cancer. These lignans are present in very high amounts in flax and sunflower seeds, as well as in some nuts. Therefore, these cereals should be considered foods with great potential to prevent colon cancer.
In the laboratory, turmeric and its main component, curcumin, are potent inhibitors of colon cancer development. A role for this spice in the prevention of this cancer is also suggested by observations showing that Indians, heavy users of this spice, have a rate of colon cancer 10 times lower than that observed in industrialized countries.
The composition of the intestinal microbial flora also plays a major role in the development of colon cancer. Several observations suggest that certain beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, might prevent colon cancer. Furthermore, studies on the effect of consuming fermented milk products containing these bacteria, the so-called probiotics, show that these fermented products reduce the development of colon cancer in animal models. Therefore, various fermented products containing probites such as bifidobacteria represent an interesting addition to the dietary habits of people interested in cancer prevention.
The ravages caused by colon cancer in industrialized countries are a concrete example of the impact that diet can have on the development of cancer. However, it is possible to turn the tide and drastically reduce the mortality associated with this disease. In this sense, modifying eating habits to introduce the foods mentioned above and reducing the consumption of saturated fats is, without a doubt, the best way to achieve this goal.
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