Red meat, vegetables and colon cancer; or is it the fish?

They concluded that any diet in which fruit and vegetable intake is emphasized has health benefits, including lower risk for CRC in certain circumstances.

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fresh vegetables-lettuce, tomatoes, radishes

How diet may effect cancer risk

High red meat consumption is associated with increased risk for colorectal cancer (CRC), and high fiber intake is associated with lowered risk; however, the effect of various types of meatless or vegetarian diets is uncertain.

a plate of food-fish fillet, green beans
Fish, vegetables, whole grains- healthy choices or not?

In a North American prospective study, researchers identified dietary patterns and CRC occurrence in nearly 78,000 adults over  7 years. A prospective study is one in which the study group is  observed over a continuing period of time, usually years.

During  that 7 years,  490 people developed cancer.  

The people in the study ate one of 5 diets based on eating questionnaires-

  1. Vegans: No eggs, dairy, fish, or meat
  2. Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Eggs and dairy, but no fish or meat
  3. Pescovegetarians: Eggs, dairy, and limited fish, but no meat
  4. Semivegetarians: eggs, dairy, and limited fish plus meat (≤1 time per week)
  5. Nonvegetarians: eggs, dairy, and fish plus meat (>1 time per week)

After considering certain personal and clinical factors, they reported that all 4 vegetarian groups had a 22% lower risk of colon cancer than non vegetarians.

Most impressive was a 43% lower risk for the pescovegetarians.

They concluded that any diet in which fruit and vegetable intake is emphasized has health benefits, including lower risk for CRC in certain circumstances.

And that eating fish in particular may be even more beneficial in regard to colon cancer.

So are vegetarian diets healthy?

Vegetarian diets are popular for various reasons, some related to health, some related to concern for animals or the environment. Most physicians and laypersons believe there are health benefits, but proof is elusive since

  • Documenting a person’s diet for any length of time relies on self-reports which may be inaccurate or even inflated.
  • Comparing  vegetarians to nonvegetarians requires people to voluntarily eat  meat
  • asking someone to deliberately eat a diet high in red meat would be unethical since  we believe it is not healthy (even without hard proof).

This study does not “prove” that red meat causes colon cancer or that eating vegetables prevents it. These diets seem to be associated with a higher or lower, respectively, risk of this cancer.

plate of vegetables
Healthy food choices don’t have to be difficult

Here’s some additional information about colon cancer from

via Colorectal Cancer | Overview.

exploring the HEART of healthy eating

Here is another post about eating-why your mother may have wanted you to eat more greens

How to use watercress and other greens.

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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