More and more people are now choosing to completely cut meat out of their diets for a variety of reasons, one of the most popular being health!
And sure enough, many studies have been able to show that making the shift to a plant-based diet comes with many health benefits, including lowering the risk of developing heart disease or other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Other previous research has also shown that such diets can lower the risk of being diagnosed with specific types of cancer which is also what a new study tried to prove.
With that being said, the study found that eating less meat is directly linked to lowering the risk of even the most common types of cancer.
Using data from the UK Biobank study, which is a database of detailed health and genetic information from almost 500,000 British people, the team of researchers, was able to conduct a large scale analysis of diet and cancer risk.
The participants were recruited between 2006 and 2010 and at the time, they were required to complete questionnaires about their eating habits, including how often they consumed foods such as fish and meat.
They were then tracked for no less than 11 years, using their medical records to document the ways in which their health had changed during that time.
The next step of the research was to categorize the participants into 4 different groups based on their varied diets.
That being said, around 53 per cent were meat eaters consuming meat over 5 times every week.
44 per cent were considered low meat eaters, consuming meat 5 or fewer times per week.
Only a little under 2 per cent of the participants were vegetarians and vegans, the two categories being included together due to the fact that vegans were not enough in numbers to be studied separately.
Finally, a bit over 2 percent were classified as pescatarians.
To ensure some other factors that could also increase the risk of developing cancer such as sex, age, alcohol consumption, smoking and sociodemographic status were taken into account, the analyses were adjusted accordingly.
The results showed that, when compared to regular meat eaters, low-meat eaters were 2 per cent less likely to get cancer.
Furthermore, pescatarians were 10 per cent less likely to develop cancer while vegetarians and vegans registered a risk decrease of no less than 14 per cent!
The researchers also wanted to know how people’s diets affected their risks of developing the three most common cancers in the United Kingdom, specifically.
They were able to determine that low meat eaters registered a 9 per cent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer when compared to regular meat eaters.
This result was generally in line with previous research that also proved that a higher intake of processed meat is largely linked to a higher risk of this type of cancer.
Vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians had an even lower risk of developing colorectal cancer but it has to be mentioned that the difference was actually not that significant.
Another finding showed that women who consumed a vegetarian or vegan diet were able to lower their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 18 per cent as opposed to regular meat eaters.
However, it was mostly due to the fact that vegetarian and vegan women who participated in the study had lower body weight on average.
After all, older studies have shown that being overweight or obese following menopause can really increase women’s risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
As for low meat eaters and pescatarians, there were no significant associations found between their diets and lowering their risks of postmenopausal breast cancer.
When prostate cancer was also taken into account, the researchers found that, when compared to regular meat eaters, pescatarians and vegans/vegetarians had a lower risk, accounting for 20 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively.
It has to be noted that this result is not too reliable as there was no way to determine for sure whether there were other factors as well aside from their diets such as whether or not the participants sought cancer screening.
In fact, this largely applies to the whole study since it was observational, meaning that the changes in the participants’ health were merely observed without requiring any changes in their diets.
This means that there’s no sure way to really know whether or not the links drawn were caused directly by their diets or if there were other factors influencing the results.
The team of researchers stressed that the results were carefully adjusted to take note of many other causes of cancer such as alcohol consumption and smoking but it is still possible for other factors to have influenced the results.
Furthermore, since around 94 percent of the participants were Caucasian, there is no way to tell whether the results would be the same in the case of other racial and ethnic groups, this being another significant limitation of the study.
In other words, it is important for future research to include a more diverse population for the most accurate results.
A larger number of vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians is also needed in order to accurately explore the link between diet and cancer risk in future research.
An important point to make, however, is that cutting out meat completely out of your diet does not necessarily mean you will be healthier.
For instance, people who eat a vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian diet might still consume low amounts of vegetables and fruits and high amounts of processed or refined foods, ultimately not taking proper care of their health.
In reality, the links between processed and red meat and cancer risk levels are still not known, reason for which it is recommended to limit the consumption of such foods as much as possible.
In addition to that, it is also recommended that people follow diets rich in vegetables, fruits, grains and beans, in addition to just trying to maintain a healthy body weight in order to lower their cancer risk as much as possible.