Can Diet Play a Role in Preventing Polyps?
The right eating and exercise plan can help lower your risk of polyps and colorectal cancer, according to a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund.
What Are Polyps?
Polyps are growths that form in the tissues on the inner lining of the colon. They start as small, benign (harmless) bumps, but as they grow and become larger, they can transform into cancer. The actual cause of polyps is not known but may be related to dietary or hereditary factors.
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States, a disease that impacts over 135,000 people per year and causes more than 50,000 deaths. However, if detected early, colorectal cancer has over a 90% survival rate, which is why colorectal specialists urge all patients over the age of 50 to undergo a colonoscopy exam. Over 90% of patients impacted by colorectal cancer are over 40 years old.
Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Colon Polyps
Colon polyps can lead to cancer if not detected and removed. Therefore, it makes sense to learn more about them and what you can do to prevent them. Modifying your diet can provide health benefits, and evidence suggests that you can lower your chances of developing polyps and colorectal cancer by adapting the following healthy habits:
- Consume whole grains
- Eat foods containing dietary fiber
- Consume dairy products
- Take calcium supplements
- Eat less red meat
- Consume less processed meat
- Reduce the intake of alcoholic drinks
Foods to Help You Prevent Polyps
It is believed that eating more whole grains reduces colon cancer risk, and now, the research backs it up. In fact, eating about three servings of whole grains daily can lower colorectal cancer risk by 17% (one serving is equal to a cup of cereal, one slice of bread, or half a cup of rice or pasta).
Foods that are high in fiber — such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are vital to preventing polyps and colorectal cancer, as they contain a myriad of anti-carcinogenic nutrients, minerals, and other natural chemical compounds that help to ward off the disease.
Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and high-fiber bran ready-to-eat cereal are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Additional fiber-enriched food sources include:
- Cooked beans and legumes such as navy beans, lima beans, pinto beans, mung beans, yellow beans, adzuki beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils
- Fresh fruits such as pears, guavas, avocados, apples, oranges, and bananas
- Dried fruits like dates and figs
- Berries including cranberries, blackberries, and raspberries
- Seeds such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds
- Sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
Foods to Limit or Cut Back On
Research suggests that eating less of the following foods may provide health benefits and lower your chances of developing polyps:
- Fatty foods, such as fried foods
- Red meat, such as beef and pork
- Processed meat, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and cold cuts
These kinds of meats contain higher levels of heme iron, which has been shown to promote the growth of colorectal tumors. To modify your meat intake, eat no more than 500g or 17.5oz (cooked weight) a week of red meat and eat little if any processed meat.
There is also a convincing connection between alcohol intake and polyps and colorectal cancer. Those who consume more than 30 grams of alcohol (the equivalent of about two glasses of wine) per day are at increased risk. If you do drink alcohol, it is best to keep your intake moderate.
Overweight and Obesity
Eating more whole grains and veggies and less meat may have another risk-reducing benefit: helping you maintain a healthy weight. Strong evidence suggests that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop colon cancer.
A 2007 meta-analysis found that being overweight is a colon cancer risk factor for both men and women. The heavier you are, the higher the risk. Therefore, it’s essential to be physically active and exercise regularly.
In the US, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among both men and women with an estimated 371 cases diagnosed each day. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that 47% of US colorectal cancer cases could be prevented each year through healthy lifestyle changes.
If you have any questions or would like more information about colon polyps, colonoscopy, or colorectal cancer, please contact us or call 386-672-0017.