Can Whole Grains Protect Against Cancer?

Can a diet with whole grains help to prevent liver cancer? Studies show that this might very well be the case.

Recently a US study was published analyzing 125,000 men and women over a 24 year period. The study was looking to see the health effects of diets with whole-grain versus diets that lack whole grain.

This analysis showed that the men and women who ate the most whole grains had a 40% lower chance of developing liver cancer compared to those who ate the least within the study. Within the group studied over the 24 years, there were 141 cases of liver cancer.

 

More Research is Needed

The researchers have acknowledged that more case studies will need to be done. If more studies are done, then we could determine why and if whole grain could truly be protective. However, in the United States, this could prove to be a difficult challenge with fatal cases of liver cancer already being rare according to the senior study author, Dr. Xuehong Zhang of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA.

He was quoted as saying, "The low number of cases is primarily because of the very low incidence of liver cancer in the US although the incidence has been rapidly increasing in the past decades," He went on to say that he was not surprised there was not more than 200 cases of cancer despite the large sample size and long-term trial and follow up period.

 

Why Could This Be?

Dr. Xuehong Zhang and his fellow researchers have suspected that whole grains could be protective against liver cancer. This idea was due to the grains past in improving risk factors for the disease. Whole grains are great for lowering the risk of obesity, type two diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

They have also been shown to be useful in improving insulin sensitivity, metabolic regulation, and decreasing systemic inflammation. All of these things come together to make a compelling case for how they could help in preventing cancer from spreading in the body.

 

It Might Not Just Be the Grain

When looking deeper into the study, you’ll find that even those that ate the most whole grain consumed only an ounce a day. After looking into age, BMI, risk factors, and history researchers found that those high whole wheat eaters had a few things in common including more physical activity, less alcohol, less likely to smoke, higher intakes of healthier foods, and less intake of fat.

This study was not strong enough to produce new recommendations. However, they did note that the overall health benefits made eating more a good idea nonetheless.

 

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