Previous studies in mice and in vitro as well as anecdotal evidence have suggested that plant sterols may have a preventative role in colorectal cancer.
|Certain plant sterols may increase the risk of rectal cancer in men|
|American Journal of Clinical Nutrition|
Dr Lena Norman and colleagues used the framework of the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer to evaluate the epidemiological relationship between plant sterols and colorectal cancer.
In 1986, 120,852 people completed a questionnaire on diet as part of the Netherlands Cohort Study. After 6.3 years of follow up 620 cases of colon cancer and 344 cases of rectal cancer were reported in the sample.
Dr Norman's team examined the daily intakes of the plant sterols: campesterol, stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, campestenol and beta-sitostinol.
The total mean intake of plant sterols was 285mg per day. Bread, vegetable fats and fruit and vegetables were the main sources of plant sterols.
The research team found that for women there was no association between either colon or rectal cancer and dietary intake of plant sterols.
In men, however, there appeared to a positive association between the risk of rectal cancer and the intake of campesterol and stigmasterol. There was no such link for colon cancer.
Dr Norman concludes, "A high dietary intake of plant sterols was not associated with a lower risk of colon and rectal cancers in the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer."