Colorectal cancer is a significant public health concern, and the role of diet in its development has been extensively studied. Indeed, according to the American Cancer Society, only around 5% of all colorectal cancer cases are attributable to inherited mutations that cause family cancer syndromes. The other 95% of cases involve external factors, especially diet. In this article, we will explore the relationship between longevity diet and colorectal cancer. Drawing insights from authoritative sources like “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger and “Outlive” by Dr. Petter Attia, we will also touch upon substances classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the context of this cancer.
Before diving into the evaluation of the scientific literature on this topic, will talk briefly about cancer metabolism and how this can help us to reduce the risk of cancer. Cancer cells have a stronger “appetite” for glucose than healthy cells. This is why a PET scan is one of the potential ways to locate tumors: areas with abnormally high glucose concentrations indicate the possible presence of cancer. Obesity is driven by metabolic dysfunction: when visceral fat accumulates, it helps promote inflammation via the secretion of inflammatory cytokines into circulation. This chronic inflammatory environment creates a conducive environment for healthy cells to become cancerous.
A longevity-focused diet, as advocated by Dr. Greger and Dr. Attia, emphasizes the importance of a plant-based diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods. The longevity diet is centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts while minimizing the intake of processed and red meats. These dietary principles are particularly pertinent in the prevention of colorectal cancer.
Research from Harvard and the World Health Organization has shown a link between processed and unprocessed red meats and colorectal cancer risk. This was after controlling other diet and lifestyle factors. Consuming large amounts of processed meats, such as bacon, sausages, and hot dogs, has been classified by the WHO as Group 1 carcinogens – substances known to cause cancer. Specifically, they found an 18% increased relative risk of colorectal cancer for every 50 grams of processed meat a day. Additionally, red meat is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen, indicating it is probably carcinogenic to humans. These findings, together with their association with heart disease, underscore the importance of limiting the consumption of these meats.
On the other hand, a diet rich in fiber, found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts has a protective effect against colorectal cancer. Fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive system, aids in regular bowel movements, and promotes increased gut microbiota diversity. Furthermore, the antioxidants and phytochemicals (namely phytate) found in these plant-based foods have been associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, via the detoxification of excess iron in the body.
In the battle against colorectal cancer, a longevity diet, as recommended by Dr. Greger and Dr. Attia, can make a significant difference. At Longevity, we prioritize whole, plant-based foods, while minimizing the consumption of processed and red meats, such that individuals can adopt a dietary approach that aligns with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. In the next article, we will talk about the Longevity Diet for breast cancer.
The Longevity Nutritional Concept involves a solid menu, carefully designed to reach a balance between the various macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats), gluten free, rich in fibers and with a low glycemic index, promotes weight loss, restores and regenerates the various metabolic and endocrine body systems. Furthermore, Longevity Nutrition is also by definition always anti-inflammatory and helps prevent diseases like cancer. Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include: olive oil, nuts and seats, cruciferous vegetables and berries. Thus, the Longevity Nutrition is a boost of overall health and well-being.
 Colorectal cancer risk factors: Hereditary colorectal risk factors (2020) Hereditary Colorectal Risk Factors | American Cancer Society. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/colon-rectal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html (Accessed: 01 November 2023).
 A PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) is a medical imaging technique that uses a small amount of radioactive material to create detailed images of internal body structures and functions, helping in the diagnosis and monitoring of various medical conditions.
 Cytokines are small proteins that regulate immune responses and cell communication in the body.
 Attia, P. and Gifford, B. (2023) Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity. New York: Harmony.
 IARC monographs evaluate red and processed meats (2015) World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.emro.who.int/noncommunicable-diseases/highlights/red-and-processed-meats-cause-cancer.html (Accessed: 01 November 2023).