It’s a running joke in the laboratory of Colorado School of Public Health researcher Elizabeth Ryan. After every presentation, at least one audience member will proclaim plans to eat beans for dinner.
That’s because the Ryan Lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University studies the potential power of navy beans and rice bran to promote digestive health and to prevent metabolic alterations in obesity, heart disease and certain cancers. In collaboration with the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Ryan’s latest clinical trials confirm that people can eat enough bean- and rice bran-enhanced foods to promote gut health at levels shown to prevent colorectal cancer in animals.
Guidelines from the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend reducing the risk of cancer by eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, such as beans. Ryan has established from these studies that eating a half-cup of beans and 30 grams of rice bran per day is enough to see changes in small molecules that can confer protection against colorectal cancer – now it’s just a matter of getting people to eat them.
“The evidence is there in animals and we can now study this in people. The question is, what are we doing to achieve adequate levels of intake of these foods?” Ryan said. “It’s not enough to say ‘I eat them once in a while.’ That’s not going to work, particularly if you are at higher risk. You have to meet a dose, just like you need a dose of a certain drug, you need to reach intake levels and consume increased amounts of these foods, and that’s where people, including me, are challenged. Not everyone wants to open up a can of beans and eat them every day.”
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