Fruits and vegetables provide some of the most important nutrients you can consume, namely, disease-fighting antioxidants in the form of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (substances found only in plants that are known to protect your cells from destruction).

One of the many diseases that antioxidants can help prevent is bowel, or colorectal, cancer. But it gets even more specific than that. An Australian survey study, published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that different fruits and vegetables may affect certain parts of the bowel.

Previous studies that link bowel cancer risk and fruit and vegetable consumption have had conflicting results. The Australian researchers point out that this could be because until now, no study has looked specifically at the relationship between diet and the different parts of the bowel where tumors could form.

Your gastrointestinal tract is a long tube that stretches from your mouth to your rectum, with lots of twists, turns, bulges, and folds in between. The food you eat travels this entire course to be broken down, digested, and stripped of its nutrients along the way. Those nutrients are absorbed through your intestinal wall and travel through your bloodstream to wherever they are needed. What's left of your meal is eliminated, along with any indigestible fiber contained in the food.

Your bowel has three main parts and each part is divided into distinct areas. Your distal colon includes the large intestine, sigmoid colon, and descending colon in your distal colon. Your proximal colon includes the cecum, appendix, ascending colon, and transverse colon. Your rectum leads to your anus, which is the end of your large intestine and the end of your gastrointestinal tract.

More clinical studies need to be performed to confirm these results, but upon analyzing the diets of almost 2,000 adults who participated in this study, the Australian researchers found the following associations:

  • Eating more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts may be linked to a lower rate of cancer in both the distal and proximal colons.
  • Eating more apples and dark yellow or orange vegetables, such as winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots may be linked to a lower risk of developing distal colon cancer.
  • Higher total fruit and vegetable intake may be linked to a lower risk of distal colon cancer, but not proximal colon cancer or rectal cancer.
  • Increased consumption of fruit juice may be linked to an increased risk of developing rectal or anal cancer.




Annema, N. et al; "Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and the Risk of Proximal colon, Distal Colon, and Rectal Cancers in a Case-control Study in Western Australia." Journal of the American Dietetic Association 111(10):1479-1490 October 2011 Web 20 Oct 2011

Science Daily: Fruits and Vegetables Reduce Risks of Specific Types of Colorectal Cancers, Study Finds 26 Sep 2011 Web 20 Oct 2011