We’ve written about how spinach can boost muscle gain and is high in folate, but today we have another reason to eat more of this leafy green. New research from Texas A&M University has found that eating spinach could reduce your risk of colon cancer.
In their study, the researchers focused on patients with a hereditary disease called familial adenomatous polyposis. This disease causes young people to develop multiple noncancerous growths in their colon, often requiring the surgical removal of the colon to prevent the growth of tumors. In a 26-week study of familial adenomatous polyposis in an animal model, the researchers found that increased spinach consumption created antitumor activity in the colon and small intestine and could effectively delay the need for colon removal.
The researchers believe the anti-cancer benefits of spinach are due to its influence on increased diversity in the gut microbiome as well as changes in gene expression to help prevent cancer. Spinach also helps reduce inflammation which increases the presence of beneficial fatty acids called linoleate metabolites.
Hereditary forms of colon cancer make up only 10 to fifteen percent of cases, but the researchers believe that their results apply to those who develop non-hereditary colon cancer as well. Colon cancer is usually caused by exposure to diet and environmental carcinogens which affect how genes are expressed in the gastrointestinal tract. The health benefits of spinach can delay the development of growth due to these lifestyle exposures.
Although the researchers were initially trying to identify the effect of chlorophyll on colon cancer, their multi-omics method led them to a different conclusion. Multi-omics uses large data sets to follow hypothesis-generating approaches from vast amounts of information. This analysis of hundreds of colon cancer cases is what led them to the beneficial effects of linoleate metabolites, inspiring their animal model.
The researchers plan to proceed with more human-based studies, but for now, they note that it’s never too early to incorporate some extra spinach into your diet.