Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat with Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D, Healthnotes Inc.

Calcium: good for more than just bones
Women may decrease their risk of developing colorectal cancer by up to 45 percent by getting high amounts of calcium from diet and supplements, reports a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.

The new study investigated the relationship between calcium intake and colorectal cancer in 45,354 women whose average age was 62. By the end of the eight-year study period, 482 had developed colorectal cancer. The risk of developing cancer was 25 percent less among those who consumed the greatest amount of calcium in their diets (average 985 mg per day). Women who took more than 800 mg per day of supplemental calcium also had a lower colorectal cancer risk. Women with the highest total calcium intake from both diet and supplements had a 45 percent reduction in colorectal cancer risk compared with women with the lowest total calcium intake.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Several recent studies have shown calcium to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Although the mechanism is not fully understood, it may be related to calcium?s ability to bind bile acids the liver secretes into the intestinal tract. Although bile acids play an important role in normal digestion in the small intestine, their presence in the large intestine (colon) may contribute to colon cancer development.

People with a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with colorectal cancer and those with inflammatory conditions of the colon, such as Crohn?s disease and ulcerative colitis, are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Smoking and physical inactivity are additional risk factors. Diets high in fat and red and processed meats, and diets low in calcium, folic acid, fiber and vitamins A, C and E may increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts are thought to have a protective effect.

It appears that calcium from dietary sources may be most effective in decreasing colorectal cancer risk, as less dietary calcium provided the same risk reduction as higher amounts of supplemental calcium.

Children need fiber-rich diets
American preschool-age children do not get enough fiber from their diets, reports the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Inadequate fiber intake may increase these children?s risk of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Fiber, the indigestible portion of plants, comes from foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Eating high-fiber foods can decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends a daily fiber intake of 14 g per 1,000 calories for adults and children. This Dietary Reference Intake is higher than the amount previously recommended by the American Health Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The new study assessed the average daily intake of fiber by 2- to 5-year-old children. Foods eaten by more than 5,000 children were tracked for two days. On the first day, dietary information was collected during an in-home interview. The second interview took place by telephone 3 to 10 days later.

Two- and 3-year-olds consumed less dietary fiber on average than 4- and 5-year-olds. Foods like applesauce and fruit cocktail contributed the most fiber to the children?s diets. Lesser amounts were obtained from soy and other legumes, high-fiber cereals, grain-based fatty foods such as pizza, and high-fat salty snacks. The consumption of high-fiber fruits and vegetables (such as blueberries, raisins, squash and broccoli) was too low to contribute to total fiber estimates. Fiber intake was far below the DRI in all of the children.

Calcium and vitamin B12 intakes were lower among those children with the highest intake of fiber. The decrease in vitamin B12 in the more fiber-rich diets may reflect lower consumption of B12-containing animal products. High-fiber foods may also have replaced some calcium-rich dairy products. In addition, fiber itself may interfere with calcium absorption. The overall benefits of a high-fiber diet, however, far outweigh any potential deficiencies. Eating a whole-foods diet that includes calcium-rich vegetables and some dairy products should ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin B12.

Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D., is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths Inc., in Wakefield, R.I.
Copyright ? 2005 Healthnotes Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 5/p. 46

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