When a group of black Americans switched their diet from a typical American one to that of South Africans, certain risk factors for colon cancer began to fade away, a small study found.
The change was rapid, the researchers noted, suggesting the power of diet to alter colon cancer risk.
“Our study suggests that Westernization of the diet induces changes in [signals] of colon cancer risk within two weeks,” study co-author Stephen O’Keefe, of the University of Pittsburgh, said in a news release from the Imperial College London.
Conversely, switching from the high-protein, low-fiber Western diet to a traditional African high-fiber, low-fat diet reduced certain risk factors for of colon cancer in the gut. This indicates “that it is likely never too late to change your diet to change your risk of colon cancer,” O’Keefe said.
According to the researchers, prior studies have suggested that dietary change can quickly alter colon cancer risk.
“Studies on Japanese migrants to Hawaii have shown that it takes one generation of Westernization to change their low incidence of colon cancer to the high rates observed in native Hawaiians,” O’Keefe said.
The new study involved a group of 20 black American volunteers and 20 more participants from rural South Africa. Under close supervision, the participants swapped diets for two weeks.