Fiber to Prevent Colon Cancer?

by Maren Sederquist, MES, CSCS, CPT

Read beyond the headlines! A recent study failed to show a correlation between high fiber intake and colon cancer (New England Journal of Medicine, 1999, 340:169-76), but that does not mean you shouldn't eat a high fiber diet anymore. First of all, the study has weaknesses that should be addressed. The study was only done on women, relied on participants reporting their eating habits from memory over the previous year, did not take into account fiber intake early in life, and didn't look at other components of the foods eaten (such as folate, sugar, and different types of fiber) which could have been confounding variables. Secondly, you should never make lifestyle decisions that affect your health which are based on one study. Research must be replicated before you can be sure the results are valid. Lastly, even if no inverse relationship between a high fiber diet and colon cancer is found in subsequent studies, fiber has been shown in well-designed and repeated studies to reduce the incidence of diverticular disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and non-insulin dependent diabetes.

Colon cancer has been shown to be reduced in people who exercise regularly and eat a diet low in saturated fats, charred foods, alcohol and sugar and a diet high in antioxidants, folate and calcium. Regular screening is the best way to catch it in time to cure it!

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