High-energy snack foods spur bowel cancer risk

People who frequently snack on fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, crisps and desserts are at an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, researchers have found.

While a family history of cancer, low levels of exercise and tobacco use have already been established as risk factors of developing colorectal cancer, sumptuous intake of high-energy snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks are now being identified as new risk factors, researchers say.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Edinburgh University’s School of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences, recruited 2,000 men and women diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Another group of 3,000 volunteers of a similar age and from similar areas, but without the disease, formed the control group.

All participants were required to fill in a lengthy questionnaire about their diets encompassing over 170 foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as high-energy snacks like chocolate, nuts, crisps and fruit drinks.

Researchers found that participants who consumed the most ‘high-energy snack foods’, such as desserts, chocolates, biscuits, cakes, sweets, nuts and crisps, were 18 percent more likely to develop bowel cancer than those who consumed the least quantities.

Likewise, high intake of fizzy and sugar-sweetened drinks raised the odds of getting the disease by 12 percent, researchers pointed.

Coffee, however, had an inverse impact on the risk of developing bowel cancer. Participants who consumed the highest amounts of coffee were 8 percent less likely to develop bowel cancer than those drank the least.

Dr Evropi Theodoratou, study’s lead researchers marked, “While the positive associations between a diet high in sugar and fat and colorectal cancer do not automatically imply cause and effect, it is important to take on board what we’ve found – especially as people in industrialized countries are consuming more of these foods.”

“While this study on its own can’t show for sure that these foods are linked to cancer risk, it’s still a good idea to limit the amount of high-sugar and high-calorie foods and drinks in your diet,” Jessica Harris, of Cancer Research UK, which part-funded the research, said.

“Having too much of these types of foods can lead you to put on weight, which we know is linked to higher risks of bowel cancer. The best ways to
reduce the risk of bowel cancer
are to cut down on alcohol, get active, eat a balanced diet and aim to keep a healthy weight, Harris advised.

The findings of the study are reported in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention.

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