The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is known to help prevent colorectal cancer. While all the components of the eating plan are healthful, some offer more protection against this malignancy.

Researchers have determined the three most beneficial elements include eating plenty of fruits and fish, as well as reducing the consumption of soft drinks. They presented the findings at the recent meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

“We found that each one of these three choices was associated with a little more than 30 percent reduced odds of a person having an advanced, pre-cancerous colorectal lesion, compared to people who did not eat any of the MD components. Among people who made all three healthy choices the benefit was compounded to almost 86 percent reduced odds,” said Naomi Fliss Isakov, from Tel-Aviv Medical Center.

Colorectal cancer develops from intestinal polyps, which have been associated with a low-fiber diet that is heavy in high-caloric foods, red meat and alcohol, Isakov added.

In the study, the research team examined dietary questionnaires from 808 people who were being screened for diagnostic colonoscopies. The participants, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years old, were not at high risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Adherence to the MedDiet was defined as eating greater quantities than the group’s median of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, poultry and fish. Other defining criteria included the intake of a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids, along with the consumption of lower quantities than the group’s median of soft drinks, red meat and alcohol.

The results showed the participants whose colonoscopies revealed advanced polyps followed the MedDiet less than those whose colonoscopies were clear. However, even consuming two to three components of the eating plan provided protection compared to consuming none at all, as it was linked to half the likelihood of developing advanced polyps.

The high intake of fruits and fish, along with low intake of soft drinks proved to be the best combination for reducing the risk.

In addition, adherence to the MedDiet showed a dose-dependent relationship to prevention from advanced colorectal polyps. This means the more closely the participants followed the diet, the lower their risk appeared.

In the next phase of the study, the team will ascertain if the MedDiet offers protection against colorectal cancer in high-risk individuals.

“This large population-based cohort-control study impressively confirms the hypothesis of an association of colorectal polyps with diets and other lifestyle factors. However, it remains to be seen whether these results are associated with reduced mortality, and it is also unclear if and when a dietary change would be beneficial. Despite this lack of information, it makes sense to consider this diet for other health-related reasons also,” said ESMO spokesperson Dirk Arnold, from Instituto CUF de Oncologia in Lisbon, Portugal.

While the study confirms the link between the MedDiet and colorectal cancer, it doesn’t prove any specific health outcome will ensue from adhering to the eating plan. Nonetheless, as Arnold alludes, because of the diet’s other benefits, it is the logical choice for anyone desiring optimal wellness.


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