Mixing alcohol with a poor diet steeply increases the risk of colon cancer, researchers report.
Dr. Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard University School of Public Health said Tuesday that a study of the health habits and diets of more than 51,000 male health-care professionals showed that those who had two or more drinks daily while following a poor diet were three times more likely to develop colon cancer.
Giovannucci said Tuesday in an interview that alcohol seems to aggravate the effects of a poor diet that is low in fruits, vegetables, fish and low-fat foods.
Such a poor diet, he said, deprives people of two ingredients in those foods: methionine, an important amino acid, and folate, a nutrient that is the key to making methionine.
“The poor diet is a risk factor alone, but it is particularly strong when you see it together with alcohol consumption,” said the researcher. “Some dietary component, like folate acid, is required to explain this.”
Giovannucci said studies have shown that alcohol tends to block the absorption or proper metabolism of folate acid.
People who drink but eat the right foods have about the same colon cancer risk as non-drinkers, he said.