Pescatarian diet cuts risk of colon cancer
While a diet consisting of primarily fruits and vegetables is associated with a significantly lower risk of all colorectal cancer, adding fish to a diet reduces the risk of colon cancer even more. Those are the findings of a North American study involving 77,659 Seventh Day Adventist men and women who were followed for more than seven years. The study demonstrated that vegetarians, compared to non-vegetarians, had a 22 percent lower risk of developing all colorectal cancers – 19 percent lower risk for colon cancer specifically and 29 percent lower risk for rectal cancer.
The colorectal cancer risk was even lower – 43 percent — for vegetarians who also ate fish and 8 percent lower in semi-vegetarians. For vegans – those who consume no foods from animals, including milk, eggs and other dairy products — the risk for colorectal cancer was reduced by 16 percent.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.
“Much attention has focused on improving screening for and treatment of colorectal cancer, but enhancing primary prevention through risk-factor reduction remains an important objective,” study leaders noted. “The evidence that red meat, especially processed meat, consumption is linked to increased risk and that foods containing dietary fiber are linked to decreased risk has been judged convincing.”
The study demonstrates a possible causal relationship between a vegetarian diet and the risk for colorectal cancer, but other lifestyle decisions also may be involved, says Dr. Charles Berkelhammer, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
“Vegetarians in the study were reported to have higher educational levels, to exercise, and to have a lower body mass index,” he says. “They also were less likely to smoke – now or in the past — or to drink alcohol. This study corroborates other studies showing that consuming fish, and less red meat in the diet, is associated with a lower risk for colorectal cancer.”
In addition to lower risk for colorectal cancers, vegetarians participating in the study also had lower mortality, lower prevalence of obesity and hypertension and a reduced incidence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
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