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Less meat, less cancer?

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:42 / Updated on April 16, 2019 at 16:04

We know that what we eat affects our risk of developing certain types of cancer. A new study offers new arguments to support a diet low in meat: in an analysis of nearly 60,000 individuals, vegetarians were less likely to develop certain forms of cancer, including bladder, stomach, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. On the other hand, a vegetarian diet did not protect against bowel cancer, a major killer.

The study results suggest that 33 people in 100 will develop cancer during their lifetime, whereas that risk may be reduced to 29 in 100 for those who do not eat meat. In this study, the risk of developing cancer of the lymph or blood was reduced by 50 percent in vegetarians, and the risk of stomach cancer was reduced by 66 percent. The lower risk of stomach cancer was not surprising, as it was already known that eating processed meats (particularly deli meats) and large amounts of red meat is associated with an increased risk of developing this type of tumour. Certain chemical compounds found in these foods may damage DNA, while high cooking temperatures may produce carcinogens.

Do we have to become vegetarians? Not necessarily. There is no need to eliminate all meat from our diet, as it contains several important nutrients. However, this study adds more evidence to what we already knew, namely that a diet that is low in red meat and high in fibre, fruit and vegetables is beneficial to our health, especially when it comes to preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease.

While vegetarians tend to eat a diet low in fat and high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, they must plan their meals carefully in order to avoid deficiencies in proteins and some essential vitamins that are abundant in meat. The best solution for our health is certainly to show moderation with regards to our meat intake. Fish and legumes are delicious alternatives!

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