Fiber-Rich Diet Boosts Survival From Colon Cancer

From Drugs.com - November 2, 2017

Fiber-Rich Diet Boosts Survival From Colon Cancer

THURSDAY, Nov. 2, 2017 -- A diet rich in fiber may lessen the chances of dying from colon cancer, a new study suggests.

Among people treated for non-metastatic colon cancer, every 5 grams of fiber added to their diet reduced their odds of dying by nearly 25 percent, said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Chan. He is an associate professor in the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"What you eat after you have been diagnosed may make a difference," Chan said. "There is a possibility that increasing your intake of fiber may actually lower the rate of dying from colon cancer and maybe even other causes."

Chan cautioned, however, that the study does not prove that the additional fiber caused people to live longer, only that the two were associated.

Fiber has been linked to better insulin control and less inflammation, which may account for better survival, he suggested. In addition, a high-fiber diet may protect people from developing colon cancer in the first place.

The greatest benefit was attributed to fiber from cereals and whole grains, according to the report. Vegetable fiber was linked to an overall reduction in death, but not specifically in death from colon cancer, and fiber from fruit was not linked to a reduction in death from any cause.

Fiber from foods, not supplements, was linked to better survival, said Chan, who is also an associate professor of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Fiber is beneficial for everyone, not just people with colon cancer, said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City.

"Americans are getting an 'F' for fiber intake," she said. "In fact, less than 3 percent of Americans are getting the recommended fiber intake of 25 to 38 grams per day."

Fiber is critical for optimal health and disease prevention, Heller explained.

The fiber found in food keeps the gastrointestinal (GI) system moving, improves satiety, aids in weight management, fights cancers and feeds the trillions of beneficial microbes living in the gut and intestines, she said.

"Plant fiber is the food of choice for these GI microbes," Heller noted. "Research is suggesting that when we feed them well, they keep us healthy, fight diseases -- such as cancer, heart disease, diverticulosis and multiple sclerosis -- and may even help reduce depression and other mental illnesses."


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