The World's Healthiest Foods

Calcium-Rich Foods Decrease Colon Cancer Risk

When researchers examined the association between calcium intake and colon cancer risk among nearly 88,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study and more than 47,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, they found that consuming 700 mg of calcium each day significantly reduced both men’s and women’s risk of developing colon cancer. The bulk of calcium in the diets of study participants came from dairy products.

Study data was compiled from 87,998 women in the Nurse’s Health Study, and 47,344 men in Health Professionals Follow-up Study who, when these studies began (1980 for the Nurse’s Health Study and 1986 for the Health Professionals Follow-up Study), completed a food frequency questionnaire and provided information on their medical history and lifestyle, including their diet, weight, smoking habits, and alcohol consumption. In addition, all study participants underwent examinations of their colon. Dietary information was then updated at least every 4 years.

During the follow-up period of 16 years for the women (1980 to May 31, 1996 for the Nurses’ Health Study group) and 10 years for the men (1986 to January 31, 1996 for the Health Professionals group), 626 women and 399 men developed colon cancer.

When the data for men and women was pooled, the investigators found that men and women with a calcium intake of approximately 700 mg per day had a 35% lower risk of developing lower, or distal colon cancer. For women only, the statistics revealed a 27% reduction in risk for distal colon cancer among those who consumed foods containing 700 mg of calcium per day. Men as a group benefited even more with those consuming foods containing 700 mg of calcium daily achieving a 42% reduction in their risk of distal colon cancer. No such association was found for proximal (upper) colon cancer, and consuming more calcium than 700 mg/day did not appear to increase protection against colon cancer.

While the bulk of calcium in the diets of study participants came from dairy products, the World’s Healthiest Foods include a variety of other sources of calcium, making it easy even for those who cannot tolerate dairy products to consume the recommended 700 mg of calcium each day. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods’ standard for nutrient-density, the following foods are included in those that ranked as excellent, very good and good sources of calcium.

To learn more about any of these calcium-rich foods, including quick and easy cooking and serving ideas them, simply click on the highlighted name of the food in the above list.

To learn more about this important mineral, click calcium.

For even more suggestions for ways to enjoy calcium-rich foods more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating, you can get a list of the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing these foods. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you’d like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.


Wu K, Willett WC, Fuchs CS, Colditz GA, Giovannucci EL. Calcium intake and risk of colon cancer in women and men. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002 Mar 20;94(6):437-46

This page was updated on: 2004-11-22 18:11:21
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation