Calcium may protect against the development of colon cancer, especially if taken with other minerals, a new study in animals suggests.
Mice in the study that were fed a high-fat diet were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer if their diet also contained a supplement rich in calcium and 72 other minerals.
The high-fat diet with the mineral supplement was even more protective against colon cancer than a low-fat diet that included the same amount of calcium, but not the other minerals a surprising finding, said study researcher Nadeem Aslam, of the University of Michigan.
While previous studies have suggested calcium reduces colon cancer risk , the new findings suggest "calcium alone does not provide enough protection," Aslam said. Other minerals are necessary as well, he said..
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with about 101,000 new cases being diagnosed each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Because the new study was conducted in mice, more research is needed to determine if the results apply to people, Aslam said. The findings were presented Nov. 4 at the American Institute for Cancer Research's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Mice in the study were divided into three groups; there were 70 mice in each group. One group was fed a high-fat diet that was intended to mimic the diet of Americans with close to 40 percent of calories coming from fat. A second group was placed on the same high-fat diet , but also ate a mineral-rich supplement, derived from marine algae. A third group was placed on a low-fat diet, in which about 11 percent of calories came from fat.
After 18 months, two mice in the supplement group developed colon cancer, compared with 15 mice in the low-fat group and 20 mice in the high-fat group.
Minerals in the supplement may help cells in the colon detect calcium, although more research is needed to confirm this, Aslam said.
In future studies, the researchers plan to investigate which combination of minerals may be most effective at warding off cancer, Aslam said.
Pass it on: A diet rich in calcium and other minerals may protect against colon cancer, according to a study in mice.
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