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Drink Milk, Keep Your Colon Healthy

January 13, 1999

Drink milk, keep your colon healthy.

It may never catch on as a slogan, but adding calcium to the diet can keep you from getting tumors in your large intestine.

The effect was moderate but significant, Dr. J.A. Baron of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., wrote in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

The study looked at 832 people who underwent surgery for colorectal adenomas _ benign tumors _ at six hospitals around the country.

About half got calcium supplements and half got placebos. Doctors looked to see whether they developed another adenoma over the next four years.

More than 80 percent were taking their pills at least 90 percent of the time during the fourth year.

In the second through fourth years of the study _ the main risk period _ 127 of the 409 people taking calcium had developed at least one adenoma, compared with 159 of the 423 taking placebos.

Moreover, there were more tumors per patient in the placebo group: 0.73 compared with 0.55.

The study seems to back up a theory that bile acids may be part of the reason that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits carries a lower risk of intestinal growths than one high in red meat and fat.

The theory held that calcium binds bile acids traveling through the bowel, reducing their opportunity to cause growths.

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