The Australian Paradox: Flipping the stats on Bowel Cancer

The stats are pretty grim. I won’t play fear tactics with you. We all know that cancer is everywhere.

But did you know the majority of cancers can be prevented?

In fact up to 95% of all cancers have their roots in lifestyle and diet*.

Woah! Did you just read that right? Yep!

That means that most of us can actively avoid cancer!

And, that’s great news!

One of the most preventable (and the second most common) is bowel cancer, although it doesn’t have a pretty ribbon nor do we have tea parties in it’s honor, it kills over 4000 Australians a year (That’s a 1000 more than breast cancer!)

I know the poop tube is something that well, most of us don’t like to talk about. (However, if you’ve met my husband it probably came up in conversation at least once).

Although I think we can both agree that it’s time to talk turkey…

Or rather fibre.

It is widely accepted in the research that if you increase the amount of fibre in your diet you can greatly reduce your risk of bowel cancer*.

However, in Australia we experience an anomaly. Most Aussies eat a lot of fibre… and yet we have one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.

So, what gives? What causes this Australian Paradox?

The key lies with the type of fibre we eat. I know this is not an exciting topic but please bare with me.

There’s a unique type of fibre called resistant starch. I know, I know, we’ve been told for years to avoid starchy foods like potato as it makes you fat, right?

Well, yes and no.

Resistant starch is special. It doesn’t break down during our digestion process (so it’s not used for energy) and hits the large bowel pretty much the way it went in.

But this is where the magic happens.

Our good guys; the good bacteria in our gut, start to break down this resistant starch and turn it into SCFA’s (Short Chain Fatty Acids). These SCFA’s, the most famous of which is butyrate, have amazing disease prevention properties!

And it is Butyrate that can help prevent colon cancer!*

So where do we find this resistant starch?

I’ll tell you where it’s not.

It’s not in refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta and wheat bran – even though these foods claim to be high fibre… it’s just not the right type of fibre.

The truth is Australians get most of their fibre from refined foods. And this is where we get the Australian paradox. We’re simply not eating enough resistant starch.

The best sources are whole grains like millet, barley and uncooked oats and of course my favourite; beans, lentils and cashews!

Our traditional western diet often lacks these vital foods like beans and lentils. These foods are essential to increasing your intake of resistant starch and helping your good bacteria keep cancer cells at bay.

Good recipe ideas include; dahl, baked beans, lentil soup, chickpea or three bean salads, chilli con carne, hummus and so much more.

And if you’re worried about the unfortunate side effects of eating beans then don’t worry! I’ve got some great tips to help reduce that, ahem, little issue. (Watch my facebook page for more info!)

Bowel cancer – a deadly disease –  It’s not just the luck of the draw. You have the power to tip the balance in your favour at the end of your fork.

So, if you’re passionate about your health and you want to know more sign up to our newsletter. Simply click the image below.


Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Anand et al., Pharmaceutical Research, Sept 2008, Vol 25;9,pp 2097–2116.

Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Aune et al.,  British Medical Journal, 2011;343:d6617.

Role of short-chain fatty acids in the prevention of colorectal cancer. Scheppach, European Journal of Cancer. Volume 31, Issues 7–8, July–August 1995, Pages 1077-1080

Butyrate suppresses colonic inflammation through HDAC1-dependent Fas upregulation and Fas-mediated apoptosis of T cells. Zimmerman et al., American Journal of Physiology. Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. 2012 Jun 15;302(12):G1405-15.

Starch intake and colorectal cancer risk: an international comparison. Cassidy et al. British Journal of Cancer (1994) 69, 937–942.

Author: TammyS