Many doctors and experts have often talked about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. According to Minal Shah, senior nutrition therapist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, “A vegetarian diet is a healthy diet that may lower LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It can reduce the incidence of hypertension, metabolic disease, including obesity and type-2 diabetes, and decrease the risk of death from ischemic heart disease.”

FSSAI India had also tweeted about the many benefits of a plant-based diet.

Now, a recent study conducted by World Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Research UK and Oxford Population Health stated that vegetarians are at lesser risk of cancer than meat and/or fish eaters.

Published in BMC Medicine, the research was conducted by analysing diet groups of over 450,000 people in the UK Biobank wherein the participants were categorised by level of meat and fish consumption. Regular meat-eaters were classified as those who consumed processed meat, red meat or poultry more than five times a week; low meat-eaters less or equal to five times a week. The study also analysed people who didn’t eat meat but did eat fish (pescatarians); the final group included vegetarians who never consume any meat or fish.

“Pursuing a vegetarian diet can significantly reduce the incidence of developing not only colorectal or other gastro-intestinal cancer, but will also help decrease overall cancer incidence in the population,” said Dr Basu. (Photo: Pexels)

Following were the findings of the study:

*Compared with regular meat-eaters, the risk of developing any type of cancer was 2 per cent lower in low meat-eaters, 10 per cent lower in pescatarians, and 14 per cent lower in vegetarians.
*Low meat-eaters had a 9 per cent lower risk of developing bowel cancer in comparison to regular meat-eaters,
*Vegetarian women had a lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer (18 per cent) in comparison to regular meat-eaters, potentially due to the lower body mass index observed in vegetarian women.
*Pescatarians and vegetarians had a lower risk of prostate cancer (20 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively) in comparison to regular meat-eaters.

Concurring with the findings of the study, Dr Ayan Basu, HoD and senior consultant, Radiation Oncology, HCG EKO Cancer Center, Kolkata, said, “Overall, pursuing a vegetarian diet can significantly reduce the incidence of developing not only colorectal or other gastro-intestinal cancer, but will also help decrease overall cancer incidence in the population. Most prospective observational studies conclude following a vegetarian diet decreases overall cancer risk by 10 to 12 per cent across different sites. Those consuming a vegetarian diet had 22 per cent lower risk of developing colorectal cancers than non-vegetarians.”

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