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I have written recently about the positive effects that diet can have on different cancers. We know that people with a normal Body Mass Index have a lower risk of cancer. Studies have also shown a clear link with increased fruit and vegetable intake providing a decrease in the risk of some cancers.
There have been many encouraging smaller studies on diet and colon cancer but larger trials have failed to show benefit from an increased intake of fruit and vegetables. The research has been disappointing, and given that colon cancer is the number 3 cause of death from cancer, strategies for prevention are important.
When researchers have grouped studies together for analysis, there has been an association with prevention of colon cancer in those eating more fruit and veggies, but even this has not been conclusive.
In this month’s Journal of Nutrition (J Nutr 2006;136:1896-2006), a group of researchers reviewed information that was part of a colon cancer prevention trial known as the Polyp Prevention Trial. The trial was designed to compare a high-fiber, high-fruit and vegetable, low-fat diet with a regular Western diet. There was no difference between the study diet and conventional diet shown, however.
Interestingly, the food that participants increased their intake of the most during the study was dried beans such as kidney beans, white beans, pintos, lentils and bean soups. The researchers decided to look at whether beans themselves might be a factor in preventing colon cancer independent of other foods.
They did find a clear association and showed the top 25% of those eating the most beans had a 65% reduction in recurrence of colon polyps and almost a 50% reduction in more advanced colon tumors. It should be noted that green beans did not appear to have the same effect.
The researchers speculate about what the beans might contain that could lead to this effect. They felt that this might be related to the non-digestible carbohydrates that are fermented by the bacteria that lives in our colon (this is what also makes beans the “musical fruit”). The type of carbohydrates also make beans a low Glycemic Index food and this may be protective as well. Dried beans also contain a host of other great chemicals that are known to reduce inflammation.
Mediterraneans consume beans as a major part of their diet and eating more legumes like dried beans has been shown to be remarkably beneficial for a number of health conditions. It appears that they may help prevent colon cancer as well. There’s so many great recipes too. Here’s a few for you to try.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
July 10, 2006