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Cereal and whole grains associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer

November 2011

A high intake of dietary fibre, particularly from cereals and whole grains, is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (cancer of the large bowel), according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.1

Commenting on the new research on behalf of the Breakfast Cereal Information Service (BCIS), nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton, notes: "This was a meta-analysis of 25 high quality prospective studies, involving almost two million participants, which investigated associations between intakes of dietary fibre and whole grains, and risk of developing colorectal cancer. Dietary fibre is found in foods such as breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread, fruit, vegetables and legumes (beans and pulses). Whole grains are found in cereal products.

"The results of this study show a clear reduction in risk in colorectal cancer when intakes of dietary fibre and whole grains are high. Each 10 g/day increase in total dietary fibre and cereal fibre was associated with a 10% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. Eating three servings of wholegrains a day (around 90 g/day) was linked with a 20% reduction in colorectal cancer risk.

"Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK (after breast and lung cancer) and approximately 40,000 cases are diagnosed each year.2 A protective effect of dietary fibre and wholegrain consumption has been reported by other studies. This benefit is probably due to whole grains and fibre increasing the bulk of the stools and making the passage of faeces through the bowel more efficient. This process then limits potential contact between the bowel lining and any faecal carcinogens that may be present.

"This study provides yet more evidence that eating breakfast cereal on a regular basis makes an important contribution to nutritional intake and health, particularly for people at risk of bowel cancer, e.g. older or less active people. Other studies have confirmed the valuable contribution that breakfast cereals make to our diets in providing nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin D and folate, many of which are consumed in low levels by the British population, according to government data.3,4,5,6,7


"Dr Ruxton notes: "The findings of this study have important implications for public health. They support current recommendations to increase the intake of dietary fibre as well as highlighting the particular role of high fibre and wholegrain breakfast cereals in delivering dietary benefits. The findings from this study confirm that breakfast cereals can be recommended as part of a healthy diet, with potential benefits in terms of reducing the risk of colorectal cancer."


Notes to editors: For further information contact:

Katie Stray – Katie.stray@nexuspr.com / 020 7052 8859

Alison Gleeson – alison.gleeson@nexuspr.com / 020 7052 8855

Nicky Smith – nicky.smith@nexuspr.com / 020 7052 8850


1 Aune D, Chan DS, Lau R et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer : systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2011:343:d6617 doi:10,1136/bmj.d6617

2 http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/types/bowel/incidence/

3 Henderson et al (2003): National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19-64 years.

4 Preziosi P et al (1999) Breakfast type, daily nutrient intakes and vitamin and mineral status of French children, adolescents and adults. J Am Coll Nutr 18:171-8.

5 Gibson S (2003) Micronutrient intakes, micronutrient status and lipid profiles among young people consuming different amounts of breakfast cereals: further analysis of data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of young people aged 14 to 18 years. Public Health Nutrition 6:815-820.

6 Galvin MA et al (2003) Impact of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal consumption on adequacy of micronutrient intakes and compliance with dietary recommendations in Irish Adults. Public Health Nutrition 6:351-363.

7 Serra-Majem L (2001) Vitamin and mineral intakes in European children. Is food fortification needed? Public Health Nutrition 2001 4(1A):101-107.