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Fiber: Good Pancreas Protection

Fiber: Good Pancreas Protection 
: Main Image
People who eat high amounts of fiber might lower their pancreatic cancer risk by as much as 60%
Eating fiber has many health benefits, and now research in the Annals of Oncology suggests that people who eat high amounts of fiber might lower their pancreatic cancer risk by as much as 60%.

Mix it up--different forms of fiber help

In this Italian study, 326 participants with pancreatic cancer and 652 participants without cancer answered food questionnaires. Researchers looked at the dietary habits of both groups, including the types and amounts of dietary fiber they ate.

Results showed that people who ate higher amounts of soluble fiber, total insoluble fiber (particularly cellulose and lignin), and fruit fiber had a 50% to 60% lower pancreatic cancer risk compared with people who ate less.

The study authors state the "specific types of fiber and the mechanisms involved [in pancreatic cancer prevention] have been unclear." But now their study, which is "one of the largest case-control investigations on dietary fiber intake and pancreatic cancer to date," suggests that certain types of fiber may have preventive benefit. Further research is needed to understand the link between fiber and pancreatic cancer prevention.

Lifestyle habits make a difference

  • The need for options. Pancreatic cancer is not very common but sadly, pancreatic cancer is usually discovered in the late stages and the survival rate is poor. So it makes sense that researchers, doctors, and consumers are very interested in all possible options to help prevent this serious disease--including nutritional options.
  • How fiber might help. The pancreas is an organ found in the upper abdomen, which plays a role in digestion and helps regulate blood sugar (glucose). Fiber may protect against cancer by helping the pancreas do its job better. The authors of the study point out, however, that it is not clear whether fiber directly protects the pancreas or whether people who eat a fiber-rich diet also tend to lead healthier lifestyles, which keeps their pancreas healthy too.
  • What you can do. Being overweight, and smoking or drinking too much are all bad for the pancreas. So it is important to do what you can to live a healthy life. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, and see a doctor to discuss cancer-preventing steps that can optimize your health.

(Ann Oncol 2012;23:264-8)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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