New Report on Vegetarians and Colorectal Cancer

I have updated the article Cancer, Vegetarianism, and Diet with results from the Netherlands Cohort Study-Meat Investigation Cohort (1).

The study found that vegetarians had a non-statistically significant, reduced risk for colorectal cancer. In comparison to non-vegetarians, the rate for vegetarians was .78 (.51, 1.20) when adjusted for age and gender, and .89 (.58, 1.39) when further adjusted for energy, smoking, alcohol, body mass index, physical activity, and education.

It follows a long line of research that has mostly found non-significant differences between vegetarians and non-vegetarians for colorectal cancer (see Table 3).

Some other interesting findings from the report:

– Fiber and soy product intake contributed most to the observed inverse risk.

– People who ate meat only once a week had a borderline statistically lower risk (.72, .52-1.00) than those eating meat 6-7 days per week in the model adjusting only for age and gender. Adjusting for the remaining variables (mentioned above) weakened the association.

– Substituting 5% of energy from meat protein with 5% of energy from dairy protein was associated with a 24% reduced risk of colorectal cancer, after adjustment for confounding variables (P=0.055). Dairy products may protect against colorectal cancer risk due to their high calcium content.

This is only a very small piece of the puzzle on diet, meat, dairy, vegetarianism and colorectal cancer, but it underlines the recommendations that vegans make sure they’re getting enough calcium.

In summary, there is some good news here, but it suggests that vegans get enough calcium.


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1. Gilsing AM, Schouten LJ, Goldbohm RA, Dagnelie PC, van den Brandt PA, Weijenberg MP. Vegetarianism, low meat consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer in a population based cohort study. Sci Rep. 2015 Aug 28;5:13484. | link | PDF Available

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