Health In Focus


  • Whole foods could be a better way to prevent low-grade chronic inflammation and colon cancer
  • Whole foods reduced the levels of colonic mucosal interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is linked to colon cancer
  • Common whole foods are whole grains, tubers, fruits and vegetables.

A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables may contain compounds that can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, finds a new study.

High-calorie Diet Increase Risk of Colon Cancer

A high-calorie diet increases the risk of colon cancer by elevating colonic mucosal interleukin-6 (IL-6) expression, which plays a role in inflammation. Elevated levels of IL-6 are correlated with proteins, such as Ki-67, which is linked to the spread and growth of cancer cells.

Whole Foods Lower Colon Cancer Risk

A research team from the Pennsylvania State University conducted a study on pigs. Pigs in the experimental group were served a high-calorie diet supplemented with purple-fleshed potatoes. Pigs in the control group were also served a high-calorie diet.

Pigs that were fed purple-fleshed potatoes had less colonic mucosal IL-6 compared to the control group.
Whole Foods Lower Risk of Colon Cancer

Whole foods contain phytonutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids that are effective in altering the IL-6 pathway.

Colorful fruits and vegetables could prompt similar effects, but the research team used purple potatoes that contain high amounts of bioactive compounds, such as anthocyanins and phenolic compounds. These bioactive compounds have been linked to cancer prevention.

White potatoes also have beneficial compounds, but purple potatoes have greater concentrations of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.

The research team used both uncooked and baked purple potatoes and found similar effects. Currently, anti-IL-6 drugs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and are being considered to treat other inflammation-promoted diseases like colon cancer. But anti-IL-6 drugs are expensive and can cause side-effects.

"The pig model was used because the digestive system is very similar to the human digestive system, more so than in mice. However, the diet approach to cancer treatment has also shown similar promise in mice," said Vanamala.

The research team hopes to conduct further research to understand how bioactive compounds work on a molecular level. This could be an initial step toward finding treatments for people with cancer.

The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

The study adds evidence to recent researches that suggest that plant-based diet tend to lower colon cancer rates than meat-based diets.

Whole Foods

Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined before being consumed like whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Whole foods contain macronutrients (protein), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytonutrients (carotenoids and flavonoids).

"What we are learning is that food is a double-edged sword -- it may promote disease, but it may also help prevent chronic diseases, like colon cancer. But, what we don't know is, 'how does this food work on the molecular level?' This study is a step in that direction," said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences, Penn State.

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the cancer of the large intestine, the lower part of the digestive system. In most of the cases, colon cancer begins as small noncancerous clumps called adenomatous polyps. People with colon cancer usually do not experience symptoms in the early stages. Some of the symptoms and signs of colon cancer are constipation, rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, weight loss, and diarrhea. A diet low in fiber and high in fat contributes to the development of colon cancer. Studies have shown that people who follow a diet high in red meat and processed meat are at an increased risk of colon cancer.

Tips to Prevent Cancer

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid calorie-dense foods like deep fried and junk foods
  • Include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes
  • Limit the consumption of meat. Prefer lean meat over processed and red meat
  • Reduce the intake of salt and sugar
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol


  1. Abigail Sido, Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Sung Woo Kim, Elisabeth Eriksson, Frank Shen, Qunhua Li, Vadiraja Bhat, Lavanya Reddivari, Jairam K.P. Vanamala. A food-based approach that targets interleukin-6, a key regulator of chronic intestinal inflammation and colon carcinogenesis. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, (2017); 43: 11  DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.01.012

Source: Medindia

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