So much of our life revolves around food. We arrange our schedules, meetings, and social gatherings around mealtimes. Birthday parties, anniversaries, and promotions are all celebrated with good food and good company. Sometimes life feels so hectic that we eat whatever is convenient, often eating on the go. While celebrations and meals with friends are important and grabbing dinner on the way to soccer practice is sometimes necessary, we need to be more aware of what we are eating. A recent study reported in JAMA Oncology discovered the correlation between a pro-inflammatory diet and colorectal cancer. Pro-inflammatory diets include foods that promote inflammation—a threat to our overall gut health.
What Foods Promote Inflammation?
Foods that cause inflammation in our digestive system include red meat, processed meat, refined flour, and sugary drinks. These foods caused the most inflammation in the participants of the study and appeared to be direct links to a cancer diagnosis. Health professionals have already come to terms with the fact that a healthy diet does not include these food products and that constant gut inflammation is unhealthy. This study further confirms that understanding, and shows that chronic inflammation plays a major role in the risk for colon cancer.
Results of the Study
The study followed 121,050 adults over the course of 26 years. Every four years each participant filled out a food questionnaire about that participant’s diet. Researchers then assessed the diets and gave each person an empirical dietary inflammatory pattern (EDIP) score depending on the amount of pro-inflammatory foods consumed. At the end of 26 years, 2,699 of the participants were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The men and women in the group with the highest EDIP score were 32% more susceptible to cancer than those in the group with the lowest score. The results also revealed that men with proinflammatory diets were 44% more likely to have cancer than women. The participants who consumed the greatest amount of pro-inflammatory foods were 37% more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer and 70% were more likely to be diagnosed with rectal cancer. While there are some details that are unaccounted for, like how food was prepared or which spices were used, the data confirms that both men and women who constantly consume foods that are pro-inflammatory are at a greater risk for a colon or rectal cancer diagnosis.
What Should We Be Eating?
The study also revealed that the risk for colorectal cancer was significantly lower in those who regularly consumed a diet containing leafy greens, dark yellow vegetables, whole grains, coffee, and fruit juice. These foods appeared to lower inflammation. However, it is important to note that while coffee and fruit juice are beneficial in and of themselves, if they contain too much added sugar, their ability to reduce inflammation is negated. We know that you won’t want to order a salad every time you go out to a birthday dinner with friends. An occasional burger is fine, just as long as the majority of your diet includes foods like sweet potatoes, yellow squash, carrots, spinach, kale, and various lettuces. The research also noted that gut health was improved in those who avoided alcohol. So be smart and do your part to have a healthier, cancer-free, colon.
If you’re looking for a GI specialist in Lubbock, TX who can guide you on your digestive health journey, book an appointment with Dr. Sameer Islam today. If you regularly consume a diet that is pro-inflammatory, you may be at risk for colorectal cancer and should consider scheduling a colonoscopy—especially if you are over the age of 50. Don’t wait until it’s too late, start prioritizing your gut health today.