Baked potatoes ward off cancer

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The Independent Online
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL experts rallied to the cause of the baked potato as one of the most effective defences against cancer. They were challenging a US study that suggested dietary fibre, found in abundance in potatoes with skins and in other vegetables, failed to protect against bowel cancer.

Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said yesterday the study of 89,000 nurses in the New England Journal of Medicine last month was not representative of the general population. "The New England Journal paper does not change the message. A high-fibre, low-fat diet protects against bowel cancer."

The study contradicted the accepted wisdom of the benefits of fibre. The US researchers said cancer was as common in women, regardless of how much fibre they ate.

But Professor McVie reviewed the research on fibre and cancer, and said the overwhelming evidence supports the benefits of a high-fibre diet, which can also reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and non-insulin- dependent diabetes.

Of the 39 studies on fibre and cancer, most showed it had a protective effect. The latest research, in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, was further proof of the benefits of fibre, he added. Professor McVie said more research was needed but the recommended intake of 18 to 20 grams of fibre, or five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, still stands.

Ten slices of wholemeal bread, 18 bananas, four baked potatoes or 64 wholemeal crackers contain the suggested daily allowance of fibre but Professor McVie suggested a variety of fibre-rich foods to keep cancer at bay.