Previous research established that vegetarians have a lower risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
A recent study shows the health benefits of different types of plant-based diets.
“We were surprised to find that pescovegetarians had a significantly lower risk of colorectal cancers than people on other vegetarian diets,” said lead study author Dr. Michael Orlich, an assistant professor in medicine and public health at Loma Linda University in California.
By using dietary questionnaires, medical records, and cancer registries Orlich and his team examined the link between eating habits and cancer incidence in a nationwide sample of 77,659 Seventh-Day Adventists, a religion that promotes a healthy lifestyle and abstinence from smoking and drinking.
At the end of the follow-up period of 7.3 years, there were 380 cases of colon cancer and 110 cases of rectal cancer. Vegetarians were 22 percent less likely to develop colorectal malignancies compared to regular meat eaters.
Pescovegetarians, a group of people defined by scientists as people who ate fish at least once a month and meat less than once a month, had the biggest risk reduction with 43 percent.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians – those consumed eggs and dairy while limiting fish and meat to less than once a month, the risk reduction was 18 percent. Vegans, who ate eggs, dairy, fish, and meat less than once a month, had a 16 percent risk reduction.
“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, chief of the gastrointestinal oncology service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.