BOSTON - Colon cancer takes the lives of more than 28,540 American men each year, and it kills nearly as many women, placing it second only to lung cancer on the list of cancer killers. New studies show that dietary fiber, previously thought to not aid against colon cancer, has a large role in preventing it, according to the August issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch from Harvard Medical School.
Many studies have shown other benefits of fiber as well, such as reducing the risk of diabetes, intestinal problems, and heart disease. A Harvard study, for example, found that over six years, the men who ate the most fiber (averaging 28.9 grams a day) had 41% fewer heart attacks compared with the men who ate the least. Scientists have also linked a high-fiber diet to a 42% reduction in the risk of diverticulosis. Thats a big benefit, since half of all Americans over age 60 have this intestinal condition.
The Institutes of Medicine have set new daily fiber intake targets for men at 38 grams for those under 50 and 30 grams for men over 50. Thats more than twice the amount in the average diet, but if the scientists are right, eating that much fiber could reduce the risk of colon cancer by 40%, reports the Harvard Mens Health Watch.
"You stand to gai a lot from dietary fiber, but to get all these benefits, you need to eat a good mix of high-fiber foods," says Dr. Harvey Simon, editor in chief of the Harvard Men's Health Watch. Fiber is found in abundance in vegetable products such as the bran of whole grains, the leaves and stems of plants, and nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.