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
"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