June 16 (UPI) -- People who include fiber from fruits, vegetables and other sources in their diets before colorectal cancer surgery can lower their risk for complications after the procedure, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Surgery found.
For every 10 grams, about one-third of an ounce, of dietary fiber consumed per day, people who underwent surgery to treat colon or bowel cancer reduced their risk for complications by about 25%, the data showed.
The effects of higher dietary fiber intake reduced the risk for post-surgical complications most notably in women, with a lesser effect seen in men.
"A higher habitual intake of dietary fiber before surgery was related to a lower risk of post-operative complications after surgery for large bowel cancer," study co-author Dieuwertje Kok told UPI in an email.
"Generally, we believe that eating a healthy and varied diet is a better and safer approach than taking dietary supplements," said Kok, a researcher in human nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
About 4% of adults in the United States will develop one of these cancers, which are difficult to treat, over the course of their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society.
More than one in 10 people who undergo surgery to treat colorectal cancer experience complications following surgery, research suggests.
Dietary fiber can help soften patients' stools and thus reduce stress on their bowels following surgery, Kok and her colleagues said.
For this study, researchers analyzed data on roughly 1,400 adults ages 61 to 72 who underwent colorectal cancer surgery at 11 hospitals in the Netherlands.
About 400, or 28%, of the patients developed complications and 235, or 17%, had complications related specifically to surgery, the data showed.
Of the more than 1,200 patients in the study who had an anastomosis -- a procedure in which a section of the bowel is removed and the two remaining sections are reattached -- 67, or 5%, developed a leakage at the surgical site.
The findings indicate that increasing "dietary fiber intake before surgery, for example by eating fruits and vegetables and choosing wholegrain products," might improve outcomes after the procedure, Kok said.
"We will continue our research to test efficacy and safety of an increased dietary fiber intake before surgery and search for the best ways to do so," she said.