Drink up! Study finds dairy may help stave off bowel cancer

Sep 29, 2020
A new study has found dairy products may help lower your risk of bowel cancer. Source: Getty.

There’s a good chance you were forced to drink a glass of warm milk before bed as a kid. Well, it turns out, there’s some sense to this common practice after all, as a new study has found dietary folate, magnesium and dairy products may all help stave off bowel cancer. However, the study published in the journal Gut on Tuesday, found there’s no evidence that garlic or onions, fish, tea or coffee protect against the disease.

Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and it’s currently the third most diagnosed cancer in the country. As well as already being the second biggest cancer killer, 15,604 Aussies are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. Worldwide, there are 1.8 million new cases each year and 881,000 deaths.

The researchers explained that while screening for bowel cancer can pick up the disease at an early stage, it takes more than 15 years for bowel cancer to develop, which led them to the conclusion that a healthy lifestyle likely has a key role in helping to halt or stop its progress altogether. So the research team analysed a variety of reviews and meta-analysis of clinical trials and observational studies assessing the impact of dietary and medicinal factors on bowel cancer risk.

The medicinal factors included aspirin, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as paracetamol and statins. The dietary factors included vitamins or supplements (magnesium, calcium, folic acid, vitamins A, B, C, D, E), coffee, tea, fish and omega-3 fatty acids, dairy products, fibre, fruit and vegetables, meat and alcohol.

The results showed that aspirin is likely protective against bowel cancer, lowering the risk by between 14 per cent and 29 per cent at doses as low as 75 mg/day. NSAID use for up to five years was associated with a significant (26 to 43 per cent) fall in the incidence of bowel cancer.

Magnesium intake of at least 255 mg/day was associated with a 23 per cent lower risk compared with the lowest intake, while high intake of folic acid was associated with a 12 to 15 per cent lower risk. Similarly, eating dairy products was associated with 13 to 19 per cent lower risk of the disease. Fibre was associated with a 22 to 43 per cent lower risk, while fruit and vegetable intake was associated with up to a 52 per cent lower risk, and dietary soy was associated with 8 to 15 per cent lower risk.

On the other hand, meat, particularly red and processed meat, increased your chances of developing the disease by 12 to 21 per cent. Alcohol was also associated with a significantly increased risk. While there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest vitamins A, B, C, D, E or multivitamins, tea, garlic, onions, coffee, and fish protect against the disease.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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