For a Healthy Colon: Eat your berries

December 07, 2009

So the scientific jury is still out on how flavonoids, found in plant based foods, can reduce the incidence of colon cancers in the general population.

So the scientific jury is still out on how flavonoids, found in plant based foods, can reduce the incidence of colon cancers in the general population. A recent study conducted at Maastricht University in The Netherlands, led by PhD student Colinda Simons, examined the association between dietary flavonoid intake and colorectal cancer.  The Netherlands Cohort Study’s database that includes information on over 120,000 men and women between the ages of 55-69 was reviewed, and data (collected 13 years prior) on approximately 2,000 men and women was studied for flavonoid intake and colon cancer.

Overall Simons did not find a link between flavonol intake and reduced colon cancer risk. Multiple factors such as age, family history, smoking, alcohol intake and physical activity were adjusted for and still found no measurable affect of flavonoid intake and incidence of colon cancer. Body mass index (BMI) on the other hand was associated with some interesting results. Overweight men and normal weight women classified by having a BMI greater than or equal to 25kg/m² and less than 25 kg/m² respectively were seen to benefit from the protective effects commonly associated with these flavonoids. 

Flavonoids are naturally found in plant foods such as berries, grapes, onions, kale, apples, and pears as well as in black chocolate, tea, and red wine. Various studies have linked these bioactive compounds with numerous health benefits, including the ability to modify the body’s reaction to allergens, viruses, carcinogens and also in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Although organizations such as the USDA do not make any dietary recommendations regarding flavonoids, due to a lack of specific scientific evidence, there is sufficient data to recommend flavonoid rich foods to obtain optimal health. This means consuming more of the foods named above as well as a variety of other fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, oils, nuts and lean animal protein.

While scientists are still scrambling over this issue, and the USDA continues to overlook the beneficial activity of flavonols in dietary guidelines on both and on our food labels, we can almost be certain that a diet rich in these capable antioxidants will bring better overall health. Encourage shoppers to head to the produce section for more fruits and vegetables as well as to the freezer aisles where they can find flavorful and nutritious frozen fruits and vegetables. Manufacturers are encouraged to look to innovative products like Haagen-Dazs 5, Campbell’s Select Harvest, and Healthy Choice All Naturals, that minimize processing - preserving the beneficial elements of our foods - and keep ingredient lists small.

The full study can be found in the December 15th 2009, International Journal of Cancer.