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Can the Mediterranean Diet Decrease Colon Cancer Risk?

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Researchers at the University of Michigan Cancer Center are launching a study which will evaluate the impact of diet on a person's risk for developing colon cancer. The Mediterranean diet and a standard healthy diet will be compared.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, fish, and olive oil. Meats which have high fat content and processed foods are limited. The Healthy People 2010 diet, which is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' plan, also includes vegetables, whole grains, fruits and a moderate fat intake with limits on saturated fats.

Zora Djuric, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the Healthy Eating for Colon Cancer Preventing study, is recruiting participants who are 21 years old and older and have had colon polyps, colon cancer or a family history of colon cancer. The participants will be randomly assigned to the Mediterranean diet or the Healthy People 2010 diet.

They will remain on the diet for six months and can choose foods which they prefer from the recommended food group list. During this period, participants will work closely with a dietitian by telephone, make three study visits, keep food records, limit aspirin use, have no change in hormonal therapies, and expect no lifestyle changes.

Study participants who are assigned to the Mediterranean diet will be encouraged to limit intake of polyunsaturated fats, such as corn oil. Monounsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil and nuts, should be substituted. Seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, including herbs, are daily recommendations. Low-fat sources of protein, such as poultry, fish and legumes are suggested.

Some evidence suggests the Mediterranean diet causes changes in the colon, and may prevent cancer. Recently, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study which compared the Mediterranean diet to a regular diet. The participants were 70 women, ages 25 to 65 years old. They were randomly divided into two groups.

One group followed the Mediterranean diet and the second group continued with their usual dietary habits.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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