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The Science Nook on Dietary Fiber, Yogurt, and Risk of Lung Cancer

Prebiotics and probiotics are involved in gut microbiota function and health. Prebiotics are compounds that act as food for probiotic microorganisms. Pre and probiotics have been found to be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, and gastrointestinal cancers. A 2018 study found specific gut microbes to play a role in lung inflammation [McAleer & Kolls, 2018 as cited in the below study]. The below study investigates the relationship between fiber (prebiotics) and yogurt (probiotics) consumption and lung cancer risk.


Association of dietary fiber and yogurt consumption with lung cancer risk. A pooled analysis

Journal: JAMA Oncology

This pooled analysis study was part of a lung cancer pooling project and involved 10 prospective cohorts of over 1 million adults in the US, Europe, and Asia. Food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) were completed at baseline, and follow-up surveys, review of medical records, and cancer and death registries were looked at to determine cancer cases and deaths. Individuals who had a history of cancer at enrollment or who were missing data on smoking history were excluded from the study.


The authors found:

1. An association between individuals with high fiber or yogurt intake and healthy lifestyles, less alcohol consumption, and more physical activity

2. Individuals with the highest quintile of fiber intake had a 17% decreased risk of lung cancer compared to those with the lowest quintile

3. Individuals with high yogurt intake had a 19% decreased risk and those with low yogurt intake had a 15% decreased risk of lung cancer compared to those who did not consume yogurt

4. Individuals with high yogurt intake and the highest quintile of fiber intake had a 33% decreased risk of lung cancer compared to those who did not consume yogurt and with the lowest quintile of fiber intake

5. These results were found after controlling for smoking status, pack-years, and dietary confounding variables such as intake of different types of fat

For the Patient and Caregiver

Include fiber into your eating pattern with these fiber (and prebiotic) rich foods: oats, asparagus, bananas, apples, and flaxseeds. Begin to incorporate yogurt into your day at breakfast, as a snack, or as a dessert. Try the different Greek yogurt varieties available, as they all have slightly different consistencies and tartness. Other probiotics to consider are: kefir, kimchi, and pickles.

For the Healthcare Team

Encourage intake of prebiotics and probiotics. Empower patients by explaining the benefits of foods containing these compounds and organisms. Discuss any challenges to including these foods into the patient’s typical eating pattern, such as not being familiar with Greek yogurts or products such as kefir and kimchi. Explore recipes that your patients may find interesting and suggest creative ways to incorporate these foods into their current routine. Interesting future research to consider may be fiber and yogurt intake in lung cancer survivors.


[i] Yang JJ, Yu D, Xiang YB, Blot W, White E, Robien K & Shu X. (2019). Association of dietary fiber and yogurt consumption with lung cancer risk. JAMA Oncol. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.4107

Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN

Jenna is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has been a part of the Savor Health team since October 2016, and gained further clinical knowledge in oncology while performing nutrition assessments at Northern Westchester Hospital and Amsterdam Nursing Home as a dietetic intern. Jenna provides nutrition counseling for patients in Medical Weight Management and Bariatric Surgery settings at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. She is passionate about nutrition therapy and exercise for oncology patients.

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