When we think of the reasons for eating fruits and vegetables, we usually talk about vitamins and fiber. But now we can talk about they may help prevent bowel cancer, too!
A team of French, Dutch, and Canadian researchers reporting in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently performed a systematic review of 343 studies on colorectal cancer (CRC). Eighty of those studies were included in the analysis, which offered valuable evidence that certain foods, including fruits and veggies, may decrease a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer.
Why should we worry about bowel cancer? According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) Journals, CRC is the third most common cancer in the world and the third leading cause of cancer-related death in U.S. women. While the disease develops slowly and therefore leaves many windows open for intervention, prevention by means of eating a healthy diet is just as important.
In fact, data from the systematic review showed that the risk of CRC got lower as the daily dose of fruits and vegetables got higher. A very high intake of produce showed the most benefit by reducing the risk of colorectal cancer by 52 percent. An increase in just vegetables had positive results as well.
The research also found that certain vegetables, such as legumes, cabbage, and other cruciferous greens (think cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts) were linked to a significantly decreased risk of CRC. However, the optimal dose needed to protect against the disease could not be determined.
It should be noted that several studies in the analysis did not find fruits and veggies to have significant protective effects for rectal cancer. Certain studies also yielded conflicting results, as they showed no statistically significant effects of a high vegetable or fruit intake on the risk of CRC.
Even so, researchers took all data into account and still found a notable link between high consumption of produce and a lower chance of developing bowel cancer.
Wondering what the science is behind fruits and veggies preventing certain bowel cancers? Fiber draws water into the intestines, which works as a cleansing agent in the digestive tract. Fiber itself helps clean out bacteria and other buildup in your intestines as well, reducing the amount of time that the cells in your digestive tract are in contact with inflammatory chemicals.
Fruits and vegetables are also rich in phytochemicals, the chemicals in plants that help them ward off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These essential nutrients, including folate (vitamin B9) may stop the formation of carcinogens in the body. They may even help prevent carcinogens from attacking cells. Indeed, the research from the scientific review showed that a high intake of folic acid (a form of vitamin B9) was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
If you want to increase your daily dose of folate and other phytochemicals, try adding more of these fruits and veggies to your diet:
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
These powerhouse foods pack a punch when it comes to fiber and carcinogen-fighting nutrients. With high levels of fruits and vegetables in your diet, you may lower your risk of bowel cancer without having to take dietary supplements.
This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.