Even when fiber and fruit and vegetable intake are kept constant, choosing foods richer in antioxidants may increase stool size, which is associated with lower cancer risk.
Image thanks to Gerard Stolk
The relationship between stool size and decreased cancer risk at first seems pretty straightforward. Fiber is what causes bulky stools. The only place fiber is found is in whole foods, so isn't that just saying, "more plant foods, less disease"? That's no revelation. But consider this: even plant-derived foods without fiber seem to increase fecal weight. How could that be?
That same ground of intrepid Italian researchers that did the inflammation and arterial function studies turned their sights to the "ability of a high total antioxidant capacity diet to increase stool weight and bowel antioxidant status in human subjects". Just like in the previous studies they did, same diets in terms of amount of fiber and amount of fruits and vegetables, but the high antioxidant group just substituted some of the higher-antioxidant foods like swapping in berries for bananas. After two weeks on the low antioxidant diet, their average stool weight dropped down to three ounces a day. That's almost as bad as New Yorkers!
But after switching to the high antioxidant diet (remember: same amount of fiber), there was more than a doubling of stool size. They suspect it has something to do with healthier diets altering the gut flora, but now we know. In addition to all the other benefits, a diet selected to raise the intake of dietary antioxidants is able to increase stool bulk. And incidentally, the antioxidant content of feces, though I'm not sure why we care.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is transcript contributed by Bruce A. Hamilton.
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Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the other videos on antioxidants and don't miss the other videos on bowel movements. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!
For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Antioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and Spices, and Best Treatment for Constipation