Study Probes Whether Diet Can Cut Colon Cancer Risk

Trial to compare Mediterranean diet with U.S. Healthy People 2010 guidelines

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WEDNESDAY, June 20, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A study to examine whether a Mediterranean diet can help prevent colon cancer is being conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Over three years, the researchers hope to recruit 120 people, age 21 or older, who've had colon polyps or colon cancer or have a family history of the disease. Participants will follow either a Mediterranean diet or the Healthy People 2010 diet for six months. They'll be able to choose foods they prefer from recommended food groups lists, and a dietitian will work closely with each participant by telephone.

Along with its emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, olive oil and nuts, the Mediterranean diet limits high fat meats and processed foods. The Healthy People 2010 diet -- from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with moderate fat intake and limits on saturated fat.

"Overall eating patterns appear to be more important for cancer prevention than intakes of specific nutrients or food groups. We hope this study will give us an indication of the benefits that a person's diet can have on health, especially in terms of reducing the risk of colon cancer," Zora Djuric, research professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and principal investigator on the Healthy Eating for Colon Cancer Prevention study, said in a prepared statement.

A recently completed study of 70 women, ages 25 to 65, found that those who ate a Mediterranean diet decreased the amount of unhealthy polyunsaturated fat they consumed by 50 percent and increased their intake of healthy monounsaturated fats by the same amount.

The women on the Mediterranean diet also ate nearly double the amount of fruits and vegetables as women who ate a normal diet and had twice the blood levels of antioxidant micronutrients called carotenoids.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about the Mediterranean diet.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, June 13, 2007

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