- Adopting a plant-based diet can potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer by 19 percent and rectal cancer by 29 percent.
- The protective effects vary depending on the type of vegetarian diet adopted. Pesco-vegetarians can decrease their colorectal cancer risk by 43 percent, lacto-ovo vegetarians by 18 percent, vegans by 16 percent, and semi-vegetarians by 8 percent.
- Red and processed meats are associated with a heightened risk of colorectal cancer while a diet rich in fiber tends to reduce the risk.
- Vegetarians often indulge in additional healthy behaviors like regular exercise and abstaining from smoking, which also contribute to reduced cancer risk.
Undeniably, colonoscopies, now recommended to initiate from the age of 45 for those having an average risk of colorectal cancer, serve as a preventative measure against this disease by identifying and eradicating premalignant growths. Nonetheless, a pivotal study inclusive of 77,000 adults featured in JAMA Internal Medicine discovered that irrespective of your age, adopting diet modifications can help mitigate this cancer risk.
Medical professionals agree that the consumption of red and processed meats is associated with a heightened risk of colorectal cancer, conversely, a diet rich in fiber reduces the risk. The research in JAMA delved deeper into various food habits.
The Impact of a Plant-Based Diet on Colorectal Cancer Risk
On a general level, embracing a vegetarian diet might potentially reduce the threat of colon cancer by 19 percent and rectal cancer by 29 percent compared to non-vegetarians, defined as individuals who consume meat at least once a week. The vegetarian participants in this study had not only reduced their meat intake but also cut down on sweets, snacks, refined grains, and high-calorie drinks, favoring fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts instead.
However, the researchers indicated that the protective effects fluctuate depending on the variant of the vegetarian diet adopted.
Exploring Different Variants of a Vegetarian Diet
Pesco-vegetarians: This diet, focused on fish and seafood, while excluding other meats, can decrease colorectal cancer risk by 43 percent.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Individuals who avoid meat but incorporate eggs and/or dairy products into their diet can lower their colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent.
Vegans: Strictly avoiding all forms of meat, eggs, and dairy can reduce the colorectal cancer risk by 16 percent.
Semi-vegetarians: Consumers who limit their meat intake to less than once a week can mitigate the colorectal cancer risk by 8 percent.
While research has yet to ascertain the specific mechanisms through which a vegetarian diet aids in disease prevention, one prevailing hypothesis suggests that vegetarians often indulge in other healthy behaviors like regular exercise and abstaining from smoking, which also play a pivotal role in reducing cancer risk.
The Vegetarian Resource Group provides an abundance of ideas on how to transition to a vegetarian diet.