Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 are at the highest risk for the disease, the third most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
A new study, published online in the British Medical Journal, looked at the relationship between diets high in whole grains and cereal fiber and the risk of colorectal cancer.
The researchers analyzed 25 studies, involving nearly 2 million participants, and found that diets high in fiber from whole grains and cereals was associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
There was a 10 percent drop in cancer risk for every 10 grams of dietary or cereal fiber people ate each day. Eat three servings a day (that's only three ounces total) of whole grains and the risk was reduced by 20 percent.
How much is 10 grams of fiber? You can check the nutrition info on your favorite box of cereal, but here are a few examples: A cup of steel-cut Irish oatmeal has about 12 grams of dietary fiber, while a cup of old-fashioned (not instant) oats has 8 grams. A high-fiber cereal, like Kashi Go Lean or Fiber One, can pack in around 13 grams of dietary fiber, while the typical bran flakes cereal has about 5 grams in 3/4 cup.
If you want to go beyond the cereal bowl, think rye or multigrain bread for toast or a sandwich (two slices have about 4 grams of fiber), and a cup of brown rice (3.5 grams fiber) or whole wheat spaghetti (about 6 grams fiber) at dinner, according to the Mayo Clinic's guide to high-fiber food.
Why whole grains? An editorial accompanying the study suggests that fiber may help flush carcinogens out of the body quickly, reducing the time they spend in the colon.
The scientists also note that a high-fiber diet can help with weight control and may also also reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
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