Inflammatory diet correlates with colorectal cancer risk

The risk of developing colorectal cancer for individuals that follow a pro-inflammatory diet is two times higher than usual, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrients.

In a population-based, multi case-control study, researchers from the Molecular Mechanisms and Experimental Therapy in Oncology program of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), reviewed 1,852 colorectal cancer and 1,567 breast cancer cases, as well as 3,447 and 1,486 population controls, respectively. Dietary inflammatory index (DII), and the total dietary non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity (NEAC) were derived using data from a semi-quantitative validated food frequency questionnaire.

The researchers observed an association between the risk of developing colorectal cancer and the inflammatory potential of the diet. Participants who followed an inflammatory diet had almost twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer, according to Mireia Obón, PhD, first author of the study.  

An inflammatory diet is usually characterized by the consumption of refined carbohydrates, red and processed meat, and saturated or trans fats. In an antioxidant diet, the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts predominates. 

What the IDIBELL-ICO researcher suggests is to implement education strategies created by nutrition and health professionals, so that the general population can follow dietary recommendations and change their habits.

"Following a pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant diet is a very important risk factor for colon cancer,” said Obón. “The positive part is that this is a modifiable factor and, therefore, it can be changed. Therefore, in order to prevent such cancers, it is very important to follow the recommendations of official agencies and international agencies. We should reorient our eating habits towards a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and healthy oils, such as olive oil, and move away from a more pro-inflammatory diet.”