Background: Much of the current literature on diet-colorectal cancer (CRC) associations focused on studies of single foods/nutrients, whereas less is known about nutrient patterns. We investigated the association between major nutrient patterns and CRC risk in participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.
Methods: Among 477 312 participants, intakes of 23 nutrients were estimated from validated dietary questionnaires. Using results from a previous principal component (PC) analysis, four major nutrient patterns were identified. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed for the association of each of the four patterns and CRC incidence using multivariate Cox proportional hazards models with adjustment for established CRC risk factors.
Results: During an average of 11 years of follow-up, 4517 incident cases of CRC were documented. A nutrient pattern characterised by high intakes of vitamins and minerals was inversely associated with CRC (HR per 1 s.d.=0.94, 95% CI: 0.92-0.98) as was a pattern characterised by total protein, riboflavin, phosphorus and calcium (HR (1 s.d.)=0.96, 95% CI: 0.93-0.99). The remaining two patterns were not significantly associated with CRC risk.
Conclusions: Analysing nutrient patterns may improve our understanding of how groups of nutrients relate to CRC.