By Hugh Finlay
This is good news for vegetarians and health conscious people who eat a diet rich in vegetables: Recently a study found that eating a typical vegetarian diet reduces a person's risk of getting colorectal cancers, compared to those who are not on a vegetarian diet.
At Loma Linda University in California researchers discovered that compared to people who are not vegetarians, vegetarians have a 19% lower risk of getting colon cancer, and an almost 20% lower risk of getting rectal cancer.
Interestingly, a type of vegetarianism, called pesco-vegetarianism, which is a diet of vegetables along with fish and seafood, but without other types of meat, brought even lower risks of cancer. Pesco-vegetarians had a 43% reduction in colorectal cancer risk compared with meat-eaters.
Health benefits of avoiding junk foods, and eating vegetables and fish
The results have been published online on the JAMA Internal Medicine website in an article called:"Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and the Risk of Colorectal Cancers." The study stated: "The relationship of vegetarian dietary patterns to colorectal cancer risk is not well established." So, the researchers engaged in a 7-year study to look at the dietary habits of over 77,000 members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who are known for talking about the benefits of vegetarianism.
The study concluded that a diet rich in plant-based foods was very beneficial for one’s health. "Vegetarian diets are associated with an overall lower incidence of colorectal cancers," the study noted. "Pescovegetarians in particular have a much lower risk compared with nonvegetarians. If such associations are causal, they may be important for primary prevention of colorectal cancers."
The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Michael Orlich, said that people’s diet is a vital part of their health, something that most people are aware of, but do not necessarily follow.
"Diet is a potentially important approach to reduce the risk of developed colorectal cancer.” he said. Dr. Orlich, an assistant professor of preventive medicine with the Loma Linda University, explained that those participating in the study, were instructed to report their outbreaks of cancer over the years. They generally ate less junk food than the average person. "Our vegetarians not only ate less meat than the non-vegetarians, but also less sweets, snack foods, refined grains and caloric beverages." He explains that, apart from vegetables, these people also ate more fruits, beans, whole grains, and nuts.
Strict dietary lifestyle unnecessary to improve colorectal and rectal health
These findings, that eating fish along with plant-based foods, is great news for people wondering if they should leave fish out of their current diet. They may have been considering stricter ways of eating, and might have been thinking of becoming vegans. Although it is a personal choice, this study indicates that enjoying fish along with plenty of vegetables increases colorectal, and rectal health.
"The comforting takeaway is that a person doesn't need to be vegan and cut out all eggs, dairy, and fish to get some benefit in terms of reducing the risk of cancer" said Dr. Leonard Saltz, head of the gastrointestinal oncology service of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at New York.
The American Cancer Society says the risk of people's of getting colorectal cancer during their lifetime is 1 in 20. They also point out that in a typical year, about 93,000 people get colon cancer, about 39,000 people get rectal cancer, and roughly 50,000 people die from colorectal cancers.
You may want to consider starting to make these changes to your diet. It is not necessary to become a fully-fledged vegetarian but including more fish, and having less meat, as well as having less sugary snacks, and more vegetables, is an excellent way to get on the right path to better health.