Better to ask for broccoli or spinach on the side, gentlemen. New research shows men can reduce the risk of bowel cancer by eating a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, involved 79,952 U.S. men and found those eating the highest level of healthy plant-based foods could cut their risk by up to 22% compared with those who ate the least.
But researchers found no such link among 93,475 U.S. women in the study.
According to researchers, the study suggests the link is clearer for men, who have a higher risk of bowel cancer.
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On average, the men were 60 years old at the start of the study; the women were about 59.
The study's participants were asked how often they consumed particular foods and drinks from a list of 180 options. Researchers also queried them about portion size.
Options were divided into food groups including animal foods (meat, dairy, eggs, fish or seafood), less healthy plant foods (food including potatoes and refined grains among others), and healthy plant foods like vegetables and legumes.
Participants told researchers whether they ate each item “never or hardly ever” or “two or more times a day." For drinks, responses ranged from “never or hardly ever” to “four or more times a day."
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Bowel (also known as colorectal) cancer is the 3rd most common cancer worldwide, according to the World Cancer Research Fund International. The risk of developing it over a lifetime is one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women, said one of the study's authors, Jihye Kim of Kyung Hee University in South Korea.
“Although previous research has suggested that plant-based diets may play a role in preventing colorectal cancer, the impact of plant foods’ nutritional quality on this association has been unclear," Kim said in a news release describing the findings. “Our findings suggest that eating a healthy plant-based diet is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.”
Antioxidants found foods such fruits, vegetables, and whole grains "could contribute to lowering colorectal cancer risk by suppressing chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer," she said.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cancer study: Plant-based diet can reduce male bowel cancer risk 22%