Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber. A diet rich in whole grains and dietary fiber has been associated with a lower risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – all of which are risk factors for primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In addition to reducing insulin resistance, regulating metabolism, and reducing inflammation, regularly consuming whole grains and dietary fiber may also improve gut health and change gut microbiota composition, which increases the production of metabolites. (Related: Whole grains offer an easy way to prevent Type 2 diabetes.)
For the study, researchers from China and the U.S. investigated whether eating more whole grains and fiber would reduce the risk of liver cancer. To do so, they monitored 125,455 men and women aged 63, on average. The participants were initially enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, an all-women study that began in 1976, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986 and was comprised of male participants. Every four years, the participants reported their consumption of whole grains, as well as their components: bran and germ. They also reported their total dietary fiber intake from cereal, fruits, and vegetables. After a follow-up period of about 24 years, 141 participants developed liver cancer.
After considering other risk factors for liver cancer, the researchers found that those who consumed the most whole grains had as much as 37 percent lower risk of liver cancer than those who consumed the least. Liver cancer risk was also reduced among those who ate the most bran, but not those who consumed the most germ. Those who consumed the most cereal grain also had lower liver cancer risk, but not those who had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption.
"Interestingly, compared with fruit or vegetable fiber, cereal fiber has been shown in our study and other cohort studies to be more consistently associated with lower risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer," said senior study author Dr. Xuehong Zhang of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Zhang explained that this may be due to fruits and vegetables, particularly fruit juice containing sugar or added sugar, which may lead to liver damage and NAFLD. As a result, it cancels out the potential benefit of fruit- or vegetable-fiber intake.
Protect your liver from cancer and more with these whole grain varieties:
Read up on other ways to protect your liver from cancer at CancerSolutions.news.