This study investigates the differences in usual past diet between 252 subjects with newly diagnosed adenomatous or villous polyps of the colon and rectum and a group of 238 hospital controls. Cases and controls were interviewed in hospital by 3 nutritionists using a dietary history questionnaire focused on the diet during the preceding year. Nutrient intake was estimated by means of ad hoc food tables adapted from French and British tables. Out of 16 food groups considered in the analyses, the cases reported lower consumption of oil and potatoes and higher consumption of sugar added to food and drink. Among nutrients, we found that cases had a lower consumption of carbohydrates (not taking into account added sugar), potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6. We found a slightly lower intake of fibre and a slightly higher intake of saturated fat among cases, though neither was statistically significant. Intake values for fibre and for carbohydrates were highly intercorrelated and, due to measurement errors, the effect of one may be masked by the other and vice versa. The hypothesis that some components of carbohydrates (starches, fibre and natural sugars but not added sugar) play a protective role in relation to the biology of tumours of the intestinal tract is considered in further multivariate analyses and in the "Discussion".