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More Meals Per Day May
Up Men's Colon Cancer Risk


For reasons that remain unclear, men -- but not women -- who eat more frequently during the day are at higher risk of colon cancer compared with men who eat less frequently, researchers report.

The results held even when total daily food energy intake between frequent-eaters and those who sat down for fewer meals each day was roughly the same.

"Those who ate less than three times per day had about half the odds of colon cancer compared to those who ate three to four times per day," concluded researcher Dr. Jeffrey T. Wei, of the University of North Carolina.

He presented his findings here Tuesday at Digestive Disease Week, the largest annual gathering of gastroenterologists in the world.

Previous studies have noted a trend between an increasing number of daily meals and snacks and higher rates of colon cancers, especially in men. But these studies were either small in scale or failed to factor out important variables such as body weight or total daily food energy intake.

In their study, Wei's team had 643 North Carolina colon cancer patients and 1048 healthy "controls" fill out a questionnaire on the average number of meals and snacks consumed per day over the previous year. Study subjects averaged 65 years of age.

After adjusting for age, gender, family history of colon cancer, coffee intake, weight and total daily energy, Wei found that men in the highest-frequency group -- those eating more than four meals per day -- were at 2.3 times the risk of developing colon cancer compared with those eating less than three meals per day. These results were not found in women however.

"The magnitude of this finding was consistent with results of previous studies," Wei told conference attendees, and he speculated that "the differences between men and women might be explained by sex differences in bile acid metabolism."

Bile acid secretion and metabolism is thought to play a role in the genesis of colon cancer, and gender may exert an influence on bile acid activity.

While the findings appear interesting, Wei admitted that, for most men, eating habits developed over a lifetime may be "difficult to alter." And he said there may be a downside to restricting our daily intake of calories to just two meals per day, since bigger meals tend to cause a surge in post-meal insulin levels that can raise blood cholesterol levels.

"So the benefits of decreasing eating frequency for cancer risk might be offset by an increase in cardiovascular risk," he pointed out.


Reference Source 89

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