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Iowa Women's Health Study: Vegetables, Fruit, and Colon Cancer

In the January/94 issue of The American Journal of Epidemiology are the landmark results of this long-term American study of dietary factors as they relate to colon cancer. In tracking 127 foods regularly used by the 41,387 Iowa women who were studied over a five-year period, only one food was found to be associated with a statistically significant decrease in colon cancer - garlic! Protective effects by garlic proved better than fiber or other vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Submitted to us by Larry Lawson, here are some quotes from the report:

  • The strongest vegetable and fruit association was for garlic. (p. 4)
  • The most striking finding was an inverse association for garlic consumption; an approximately 35% lower risk [for cancer anywhere in the colon] was observed for consumption of one or more servings per week, as compared with never [less than once per month]. (p. 9)
  • The strongest association in the present study was that for garlic consumption, with an approximately 50% lesser risk [for cancer in the distal colon] associated with higher consumption. (p. 10) [The majority of cases were of this type.]

There have now been five studies world wide (3 in China, 1 in Italy, and 1 in Iran) showing an association between garlic consumption and intestinal tract cancers, but this is the first U.S. study. All in all, there were 212 colon cancer cases studied and 167,447 person-years used in the analysis.

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