Dietary Fiber & Cancer
Can fiber actually cut the risk of cancer? Well, the jury’s still out on this one. There is little conclusive evidence, to date, that dietary fiber alone will reduce a person’s chances of getting of cancer, according to experts.
While some studies maintain there are cancer-fighting qualities found in fiber (as it speeds the rate at which wastes are removed from the body, leaving it less exposed to toxic substances produced during digestion), other much more comprehensive studies have found fiber may actually increase the risk cancer in some patients – particularly colon cancer. In one study, a number of fermentable fiber supplements including pectin, corn bran, oat bran, undegraded carageenan, agar, psyllium, guar gum, and alfalfa were shown to enhance tumor development in laboratory animals.
It is believed that while dietary fibers are beneficial in that they bind carcinogens, bile acids, and other potential toxins in the digestive system, they also rid the body of essential nutrients, such as minerals, which can inhibit the carcinogenic process.
Another particularly groundbreaking study, which followed more than 80,000 female nurses for 16 years, found that dietary fiber was not strongly associated with a reduced risk for either colon cancer or polyps (a precursor to colon cancer).
But just because there is little conclusive evidence that fiber plays a significant role in reducing the risk of cancer doesn’t mean a high-fiber diet should be abandoned altogether. On the contrary, fiber provides many other benefits.
A diet rich in fiber is also a diet rich in many other essential vitamins and nutrients. Indeed, an individual who consumes the daily recommended dose of fiber (25 to 30 grams), is also likely to consume more cancer fighting fruits and vegetables (about five to seven servings a day) than a person consuming a low-fiber diet.
Given the many benefits of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, the arguments for adding more fiber to your diet are staggering. A high-fiber diet can reduce levels of blood cholesterol, help maintain regularity, and fend off gastrointestinal conditions such as diverticulitis.
Unlike their processed counterparts, such as white rice or white bread, whole-grain foods retain their original fiber, the nutrient-rich bran and germ, and the starchy endosperm. While it might sound scientific, from a health standpoint it makes a big difference.
Whole wheat, for example, contains iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, sodium, copper, manganese, and selenium. It also has ascorbic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin E.