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Eating a vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancers compared with nonvegetarians

Choose the vegetarian option to lower risk of colorectal cancers

10 March, 2015

Natural Health News — Eating a vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancers compared with nonvegetarians in a new US study.

Colorectal (bowel) cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Worldwide it is the second most common cancer in men and the third most common cancer in women, with 55% of cases occurring in developed regions such as North America and Western Europe.

Although great attention has been paid to screening, primary prevention through lowering risk factors remains an important objective. Dietary factors have been identified as a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer, including red meat which is linked to increased risk and food rich in dietary fiber which is linked to reduced risk, according to the study background.

Among 77,659 study participants, Michael J. Orlich, MD, PhD, of Loma Linda University, California, and his coauthors found that compared with nonvegetarians, vegetarians had a 22% lower risk for all colorectal cancers, 19% lower risk for colon cancer and 29% lower risk for rectal cancer.

Compared with nonvegetarians, vegans had a 16% lower risk of colorectal cancer. Lacto-ovo vegetarians (those eat milk and eggs) had an 18% lower rick, pescovegetarians (those who eat fish) had a 43% lower risk and semivegetarians an 8% lower risk, according to study results published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

While the study highlights the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, it also shows that even if you are not completely vegetarian, making healthier dietary choices, including more healthy vegetables, pulses and fruits, eating less red meat and in particular eating more fish can bring significant health benefits.

“If such associations are causal, they may be important for primary prevention of colorectal cancers…The evidence that vegetarian diets similar to those of our study participants may be associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, along with prior evidence of the potential reduced risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and mortality, should be considered carefully in making dietary choices and in giving dietary guidance,” the study concludes.