The health of your digestive system depends on your diet, and eating more vegetables, fruit and whole grains can help lower your risk of developing certain digestive problems, according to a new report.
The Royal College of Nutrition and Dietetics (RCN) says more than 40 per cent of British adults have trouble digesting foods, and it’s likely the number of people eating more fruits and vegetables is also rising.
The RCN found that people eating a lot of vegetables, for example, had an 8.5 per cent lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who ate less, while the risk of eating more nuts was 2.7 per cent higher.
The report also found people who ate a lot fruit had a 5.4 per cent reduction in the risk that they would develop type 2 diabetes.
And the research found the higher your intake of fibre, the lower your chances of developing a digestive disorder.
Food experts are not convinced that eating more fruit and vegetables, with fewer processed foods and less refined sugar, is the answer to reducing your risk.
A number of studies have found the intake of fruits and vegetable is linked to a lower risk, but research has not consistently linked it to reduced risk of certain cancers.
The RCP says people should aim to eat about 50g of fruit and 2.5g of vegetables a day, or less than one third of their daily calorie intake.
But it also advises against eating too much processed food.
And while a recent study found a small, but significant reduction in coloreneal cancer in people with an increased consumption of vegetables and fruit, the RCN said more research was needed.
“Our research showed a statistically significant reduction [in colorerectal cancer] in people consuming a higher proportion of vegetables,” said Dr Anne McArthur, a research fellow at the Royal College.
“The RCR doesn’t have the data to be able to draw any firm conclusions about the relative health benefits of different vegetables.”
Dr McArthur said that if more research had been done, it could be possible to link vegetables with a lower incidence of colon cancer.
“It would be useful to know if the evidence is consistent with that,” she said.
“However, our understanding is that fruits and other vegetables have beneficial health effects, so there’s no reason to rule out the possibility that they have a role in lowering risk.”
Dr Michael McLeod, from the British Dietetic Association, said he would not recommend people eat more than 30g of fruits a day.
“If you’re a typical person, you don’t need to worry about the excess of fruit,” he said.
Dr McLeod said people needed to understand the health benefits and drawbacks of different foods.
“There are many different types of fruits that you can eat and still have a fair chance of having some health benefits,” he added.
“But you need to know what you’re eating and what’s in it before you go on eating it.”
Dr MacLeod said it was important to limit the amount of processed food people ate, which was a common approach in the US, where more than half of the population eats processed food, such as fast food and packaged food.
“People have to know which foods are good for them, which are not, and what they’re putting into their bodies,” he explained.
“And there’s some good advice out there that if you’re going to eat processed foods, you shouldn’t put them in the fridge for a while.”
Instead, you should be eating a variety of foods that are healthy, but also minimising your intake.
“Dr Bruce Bauld, director of the Institute of Public Health at the University of NSW, said people who were overweight and obese had a higher risk of getting colon cancer.
He said while the evidence was not conclusive, there was growing evidence that high levels of sugar and processed food were linked to colorenceal cancer.
But he said the advice was not to be taken too far, and people needed time to make their own decisions.”
A lot of people are getting a lot more information, particularly as it comes out from the research,” he told ABC Radio.”
What we know now is that a lot is down to the fact that people who eat a lot processed food are a lot less likely to have colorections than people who don’t.
“Dr Bauld said the health of the digestive system was important, and the amount one ate was not necessarily the best way to do it.”
We need to make sure we’re doing things that are actually improving the health and wellbeing of the individual rather than just trying to increase their weight,” he noted.