There’s now more evidence of how a vegetarian lifestyle can be beneficial. But it’s not altogether convincing either.
In a British study of about 60,000 people, experts found that those who were vegetarian ran less of a risk of developing cancers of the blood, bladder, stomach, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma than the meat-eaters in the study.
Interestingly, this benefit didn’t include all forms of cancer. Bowel cancer was not impacted by the non-meat dietary habits.
The results for the most part don’t suggest a huge difference between the two groups. In meat-eaters, about 33 percent will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime. But for vegetarians, the risk reduction is only to about 29 percent.
The most striking difference only came in the case of a relatively rare type of cancer. The vegetarians were 75 percent less likely to develop multiple myeloma, a cancer in the plasma cells.
In another case, fish-eaters and vegetarians were about a third less likely to develop stomach cancer as meat-eaters.
There’s some cruel irony in the researchers’ findings. One of the more common types of cancer is bowel cancer. It just so happens that vegetarians in the study group had a slightly higher rate of cancers of the colon and the rectum than their meat-eating counterparts. It was a statistically insignificant number, but it’s still an interesting twist.
“At the moment these findings are not strong enough to ask for particularly large changes in the diets of people following an average balanced diet,” says Professor Tim Key, the lead author of the study.
July 12th, 2009