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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Choline May Promote Colon Polyps

Study: Women With a Diet Rich in Choline May Be More Likely to Develop Colon Polyps
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 7, 2007 -- Preliminary new research shows that women who consume lots of choline may be more likely to develop colon polyps than other women.

Colon polyps are abnormal growths in the colon which may (or may not) develop into colon cancer.

Choline is a nutrient found in foods including red meat, eggs, poultry, organ meats, and wheat germ, note Eunyoung Cho, ScD, and colleagues.

Cho works in Boston, at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. With seven other researchers, Cho investigated ties between choline and colon polyps.

Choline Study

Cho's team studied data from more than 39,000 female U.S. nurses enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study, a long-term study of women's health.

The women signed up for the study in 1976. At the time, they were 30-55 years old. Every two years, they completed dietary questionnaires and updated their medical records.

All of the nurses studied by Cho and colleagues had a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy between 1984 and 2002.

In colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, doctors guide a thin tube with a tiny camera through the rectum and colon to look for cancer and polyps. Colonoscopy involves the entire colon; sigmoidoscopy partially covers the colon.

Choline and Colon Polyps

The women's most common dietary sources of choline were red meat, eggs, poultry, and milk.

Compared with women with the lowest choline intake, those with the highest choline intake were 45% more likely to have a colon polyp. The findings weren't tied to any particular food, the study shows.

But that doesn't mean that choline caused those polyps -- or that avoiding choline prevents polyps. Observational studies such as this one don't prove cause and effect.

This is the first study to look for links between choline intake and colon polyps. Cho's team calls for further studies to check the findings.

An editorial, published with the study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, agrees.

"More research, and caution in developing public health policy and guidance, is warranted," write the editorialists, who included Regina Ziegler, PhD, MPH, of the epidemiology and biostatistics program in the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer epidemiology and genetics.

  • Could your diet be leading to digestive problems? Find the support and information you need on WebMD's Common Digestive Disorders message board.

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