Study: Vegetarians Are 45% Less Likely to Develop Cancer

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on


A study conducted in part by scientists at Oxford University’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit [1] indicates that vegetarians develop some cancers, including bladder and stomach cancers and leukemia, up to 45% less than persons who eat red meat [2], that’s nearly half the risk! The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer earlier this year.

A study by The Center for Nutrition and Health associated consuming fruits and vegetables with lower cancer risk [3]. Consider fruits and vegetables to your body like income to your bank account. The more you eat, and fill up your body’s bank account, the more “stuff” you can do, like fight off diseases, maintain healthy vision and organ function, be athletic, travel, focus, learn.

When your body is low on funds, you run into problems paying the bills and meeting the demands of life. Keeping your body’s bank account full is like keeping a nest egg or an emergency fund. As long as you’ve continued feeding your body good live things, you’re better equipped to handle whatever comes your way, mentally, emotionally and physically.

The Importance of Fruits and Veggies

Part of this risk in limiting your fruit and veggie intake lies in the fact that lower consumption probably goes hand in hand with higher fat consumption-in other words you trade in the banana for the burger. High fat diets are associated with increased risk for prostate, breast and colon cancers.

Vegetarians (those who eat mainly plant matter, dairy and eggs) and vegans (those who eat only plant matter and consume no animal products of any kind) have lower cholesterol and generally have a lower body mass index (BMI) than meat eaters [4], and are at much lower risk for developing ischemic heart disease [5].

It has been long known that fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, are major factors in health and weight loss. You are less likely to be overweight if you are eating things that your body will use and benefit from, rather than eating toxic things that will just accumulate in your organs.

Your Daily Consumption of Fruit and Veggies

It is recommended that people eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, although many people find excuses not to do so. So many excuses, in fact, that the Food and Drug Administration decided to address them one by one in an issue of FDA Consumer Magazine.

Other organizations are taking point on the five-a-day campaign, including the National Cancer Institute and Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a calculator to tell you how many cups of each you need depending on your age, gender and activity level [6].

If you’re getting less than five servings per day of these disease fighting foods, it might be time to rethink your strategy. Sitting down to watch TV? Stash the potato chips (they don’t count as a vegetable) and try eating some fresh fruit instead.

The Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

Other than lowering the risk of cancer, helping to control cholesterol and fat levels, fruits and vegetables provides loads of antioxidants, which help remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals may cause cellular damage and lead to cancer. Free-radical wrangling antioxidants are found in all fruits and vegetables, some meat and dairy products, as well as raw nuts and seeds.

Looking for a quick and easy way to pack antioxidants into your diet? Bulk up on healthy berries! Not only do they contain extremely high amounts of antioxidants, they contain phytochemicals. Don’t let the word scare you, phytochemicals are a good thing.

Phytochemicals seem to block cancer development, but youll miss out on this important cancer fighting component if you just take an antioxidant supplement instead of consuming phytochemical containing foods, like berries [7]. Blueberries are among the best free radical wranglers on the market, and they’re fun to gather at you-pick-farms.

References (7)
  1. James Gallagher. Vegetarians 'cut heart risk by 32%. BBC News Health. 2013 January 30
  2. Key TJ, Appleby PN, Spencer EA, Travis RC, Allen NE, Thorogood M, Mann JI. Cancer incidence in British vegetarians. Br J Cancer. 2009 Jul 7;101(1):192-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605098. Epub 2009 Jun 16.
  3. Jansen MC, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Feskens EJ, Streppel MT, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Quantity and variety of fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer risk. Nutr Cancer. 2004;48(2):142-8.
  4. Key TJ, Appleby PN, Rosell MS. Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets. Proc Nutr Soc. 2006 Feb;65(1):35-41. Review.
  5. Ginter E. Vegetarian diets, chronic diseases and longevity. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2008;109(10):463-6. Review.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fruits and Vegetables.
  7. Liu RH. Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action. J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134(12 Suppl):3479S-3485S. Review.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • I’ve gradually cut meat from my diet over the past year – this includes red meat, chicken and pork – which I ate very rarely to begin with, and learned recently that I dropped over 30 points from my total cholesterol. I’m only 27, am generally healthy and never had high cholesterol to begin with, but this alone solidified my belief that a vegetarian diet is one of the cornerstones of good health.

  • Three things:

    1. Mona Vie is a pyramid scheme that makes all sorts of utterly false medical claims, like the one you see above. Ignore it.

    2. The study does NOT control for *hereditary* risk factors for cancer, only behavioral risk factors. Heredity is a HUGE factor in the development of cancer.

    3. Correlation is NOT causation. You cannot draw the conclusion that vegetarianism is a diet that LEADS to less cancer occurrence – only that in those who were sampled, the vegetarian diet CORRELATED to less cancer occurrence.

  • By the way, the source that says 30-40% of all cancer is linked to diet is 12 years old. It’d be a good idea to find a more recent number.

  • I am 32 and became a vegetarian 4 years ago – I have to say that I feel a lot “cleaner” inside, but there were times when I felt like I was lacking energy. I have recently started eating fish once or twice a week, and feel that this is an excellent supplement to my diet. I have a lot of family members who have developed cancer, and so I am happy to do whatever I can to reduce the risk. Great article and information!

  • Natural Healing Methods

    This is a great site and the articles are very informative and useful.

    “Vegetarians develop some cancers, including bladder and stomach cancers and leukemia, up to 45% less than persons who eat red meat, that’s nearly half the risk!”

    That’s great news for me and my fellow vegetarians. I’ve been a vegetarian on and off since I was 5 years old. For the past 5 years I went totally vegetarian and felt much lighter and my digestion and energy improved.

    The key to our lives must be our energy, and anything we can do to improve it – like being a vegetarian – must be good. Quality energy = quality life. Also, being happy must help, because all the happy people I know are healthy. I also think that stopping eating meat has made me more relaxed and happy and less prone to nervousness and angriness, which is after all animalistic behaviour… could there be some link?

    Keep up the good work…

  • gina

    just to respond to your comment: there are no hereditary factors toward cancer, as there are hereditary factors and precursors to high cholesterol. Heredity is a huge factor in tendencies toward things like macular degeneration, high cholesterol (that leads to heart attacks and stroke problems) but eating more vegetables only leads to a better life, and even if it doesnt cure the tendencies, it DOES help you to possibly not contract the same diseases. Food is probably the best preventative maintenence that anyone can to to avoid our hereditary background. For example, my grandmother died last year of Alzheimers, and I will be sure to eat foods that help a person avoid this issue, knowing there are tendencies….There has NEVER been any studies showing that vegetables are BAD for you, and no one ever overdoeses on vegetables…

  • Robert

    Vegetarians aren’t less likely to have cancer because they don’t eat meat, but because they get more antioxidants, because they eat more fruits and vegetables.

    Meat-eaters should substitute bread, white rice, potatoes, candy, processed foods, and pasta with fruits and vegetables. Reducing meat intake alone will do nothing.

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