Less red meat + more vegetables = less cancer

fresh vegetables-lettuce, tomatoes, radishes

The World Health Organization has officially classified red meat and processed meat as carcinogens-that is, likely to cause cancer if eaten regularly and recommends

“reducing consumption of these products (red and processed meats) to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer” .


Benefits of eating vegetables

In another post I shared some related information about diet and the risk of colon cancer – what is the risk of cancer in people who do not eat meat, or who eat very little?

cows in a field
American beef is popular

NEJM Journal Watch (New England Journal of Medicine) published this report in 2015.

“Vegetarian Diets Are Associated with Lower Risk for Colorectal Cancer”

In this North American prospective study, researchers identified the eating habits of 78,000 adults  for 7 years,   A prospective study means the people studied are followed or observed over a continuing period of time, usually years.

Participants followed one of five diets:

  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)
plate of vegetables
a meat free appetizer-hummus, cucumbers, crackers, and pita bread

results of the study

In that 7 years, 490  people developed colon cancer.

After adjusting for certain personal and clinical factors, they reported that all four 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 colon cancer.  And that eating fish in particular may be even more beneficial in regard to colon cancer.

Vegetarian diets are popular for various reasons, some related to health, some related to concern for animals or the environment.

 Besides cancer prevention, diets high in fruits and vegetables help to prevent and control

  • diabetes,
  • heart disease,
  • obesity, and
  • high blood pressure.


other resources

What the American Cancer Society says about diet and cancer.

More detail about the World Health Organization’s report on the link between red meat and cancer.

green leafy vegetables
Watercress and other greens are among the most nutritious vegetables.

Learn about Powerhouse Vegetables

sharing the HEART of staying healthy by eating

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Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

I am a family physician who explores the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, and through writing. On my blog, Watercress Words, I inform and inspire us in healthy living. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can then share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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