According to the results of a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, high intake of choline-a nutrient found in foods such as red meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products-may be linked with an increased risk of colorectal polyps.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. The disease develops in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) or the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine). It may start as a precancerous growth known as an adenomatous polyp or adenoma. It is thought that a reduction in the development of adenomas would ultimately reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Some studies have suggested that folate, a water-soluble B-vitamin, may reduce the risk of colorectal adenomas. Choline is a nutrient that shares some biologic functions with folate, and researchers have hypothesized that choline may also reduce the risk of colorectal adenomas. Major food sources of choline include red meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products.
To explore the relationship between dietary choline and risk of colorectal adenomas, researchers evaluated information from the Nurses’ Health Study.
The analysis focused on the 39,246 study participants who were initially free of cancer and polyps and who had at least one sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy between 1984 and 2002. During follow-up, 2,408 of these women were diagnosed with a colorectal adenoma.
A self-administered dietary questionnaire was used to assess choline intake.
Compared to women with the lowest intake of choline, women with the highest intake were 45% more likely to develop a colorectal adenoma.
The finding that higher choline intake may increase the risk of colorectal polyps was unexpected. The researchers note that the apparent link between choline and colorectal polyps could be due to other components of choline-containing foods (rather than to choline per se), and should be investigated further.
Reference: Cho E, Willett WC, Colditz GA et al. Dietary choline and betaine and risk of distal colorectal adenoma in women. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2007;99:1224-31.
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