A vegetarian diet may reduce the risk for colorectal cancer in some people. A pescatarian diet, one that includes fish, may offer the most benefits.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a type of cancer that affects your colon and rectum. Your colon and rectum make up your large intestine. CRC starts when abnormal and pre-cancerous growths in the inner lining of the intestine, known as polyps, start to get bigger, which in time can turn or evolve into cancer.
Research has long established that colon cancer is lifestyle-related and that certain dietary choices, such as diets rich in processed and red meats and refined grains, may
The vegetarian diet is a plant-based diet that focuses on consuming:
People following a vegetarian diet may or may not also consume animal-derived products, such as eggs, dairy, or honey.
Because of these dietary choices, numerous studies and clinical trials have linked vegetarian diets to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) compared with omnivore diets. Omnivore diets are those that include both animal- and plant-based foods.
Read on to learn more about the research behind vegetarian diet and your risk for CRC, plus other ways to reduce your risk for this type of cancer.
According to the results from a 7-year
These diets are rich in fiber
Vegetarian diets are
Some of the beneficial effects of fiber on CRC risk include:
- Increased stool weight: This
helpsdilute or trap cancer-promoting substances, which end up being excreted instead of absorbed.
- Reduced transit time: Fiber metabolism
leads toa low pH environment, which leads to stool being passed faster, reducing your bowel cells’ exposure time to potential cancerous substances.
- Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) production: Fermentation of fiber releases SCFAs — namely butyrate, propionate, and acetate — which
improvebowel health and have cancer-protective properties.
Some include dairy products
Lacto-vegetarian diets are a type of vegetarian diet that
The cancer-fighting properties of calcium
Vitamin D, which is present in fortified dairy products, keeps cancer cells from growing and spreading to neighboring tissues and prevents blood vessel growth, which helps starve tumors.
Additionally, yogurt and other fermented dairy products have also been linked to a reduced risk of CRC.
According to research, lactic acid bacteria in these products may improve the composition of your gut’s friendly bacteria, deactivate and reduce the absorption of cancer-promoting substances, and reduce intestinal inflammation.
They avoid red and processed meat products
Being a plant-based eating pattern, a vegetarian diet avoids the intake of animal-based proteins, including red and processed meats.
Red meats include:
In contrast, processed meats, such as sausages or ham, are meats that have been smoked, cured, salted, or fermented to improve their flavor and extend their shelf life.
For example, according to a results from a 6-year study in 475,581 people, those who consumed an average of 76 grams of red or processed meats per day had a
They’re typically low in refined carbs
Vegetarians typically center their food intake around low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits. This can lead to
By choosing whole over refined carbs, vegetarians
While human studies haven’t found a clear link between sugar intake and CRC risk, researchers have found an association between
Research suggests that obesity increases blood levels of sugar- and hunger-regulating hormones, as well as inflammatory markers, and reduces the levels of protective compounds. This
By choosing healthier foods that help you manage your weight, vegetarian diets may protect against CRC.
When it comes to vegetarianism, there’s a somewhat broad umbrella of eating patterns that range from the most flexible to the most rigid.
The six main types of
- Lacto-vegetarian: This includes dairy products but excludes eggs and meat products.
- Ovo-vegetarian: This doesn’t include meat and dairy products, but does include eggs.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: This includes eggs and dairy products while restricting meat products.
- Pesco-vegetarian: Also known as pescatarian, it includes fish intake but limits consumption of other meats like poultry or beef.
- Flexitarian: Also known as
semi-vegetarian, it includes both fish and other meats, but limits the consumption of these animal products to no more than once a week.
- Vegan: This doesn’t allow for animal products, including animal-derived ones like honey.
While there are
For example, compared with meat consumers, pescatarians have a
While diet plays a
According to the
- inflammatory bowel disease
- genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or lynch syndrome
- family history of CRC
In contrast, modifiable or lifestyle-related risk factors may include:
- sedentary lifestyle
- low fiber diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
- high fat diet rich in red and processed meats
- overweight and obesity
- alcohol and tobacco use
While nonmodifiable risk factors, like genetics, are harder to control, improving the modifiable ones may help reduce your risk.
Aside from the dietary modifications mentioned above, which focus on reducing the intake of refined grains and red and processed meats while increasing the intake of fiber-rich foods, the CDC recommends doing at least
This will help get your body moving and reduce the risk of obesity at the same time, both of which have been linked to a
Lastly, since tobacco use is not only linked to CRC development but also to numerous different cancers all over your body, the
Regular CRC screenings are also important!
Since CRC almost always starts from abnormal growth of polyps in the large intestine, the best way to prevent CRC is to do regular screenings.
According to the
Additionally, they can help find cancer when it’s still in its early stages — when treatment is more likely to be more effective.
Do vegetarians get colorectal cancer?
Yes. While vegetarian diets have shown promising results in reducing the risk of cancer, vegetarians could still get CRC, and the risk may increase due to lifestyle-related circumstances, such as smoking, drinking, and leading a sedentary life.
Do vegetarians have a higher risk of cancer?
Are vegetarians at lower risk for cancer?
Can a plant-based diet reverse colon cancer?
Plant-based diets are associated with numerous
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a lifestyle-related cancer that’s heavily influenced by your dietary choices. Research supports vegetarian diets as a means to reduce its risk.
While all vegetarian diets may offer protective effects due to their high fiber and low red and processed meat intake, pescatarian diets, the kind that allows for fish intake as well, seems to be the one that protects the most.
While making some dietary changes may reduce your risk of CRC, other essential factors to consider include keeping a moderate weight, exercising, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco use.