healthy green smoothieThe health benefits of an all vegetarian diet are numerous. In a new study of Seventh-Day Adventist men and women, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, investigators concluded that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer as compared to a non-vegetarian diet.

Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, rectal cancer or bowel cancer, is the development of cancer in the large bowel.

Patients commonly present with complaints of bleeding in stools, change in bowel movements, loss of weight, loss of appetite, and weakness. Known risk factors are sedentary lifestyle, diet low in fiber, old age, smoking, alcohol, family tendency, etc. A diet high in red, processed meat also increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

The bigger picture:

The second most important cause of cancer deaths in United States is colorectal cancer, which makes it reason for concern. With advanced technology today, early detection, screening, primary prevention is given huge importance. Yet, in cases of incurable cancers like colorectal cancer, identifying the risk factors and reducing them play a huge role. Food intake or diet is known to be a changeable risk factor in development of colorectal cancer.

A new study was conducted by lead author Michael J. Orlich of Loma Linda University, California. He and his team studied 77,659 patients of which there were 380 cases of colon cancer and 110 of rectal cancer. Results showed that compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians showed lesser risk for all colorectal cancers-22%, colon cancer-19%, and rectal cancer-29%. Those who had a lacto-ovo diet (eat milk and eggs) had a lower risk as well- 18%, pescovegetarians-43% and semivegetarians-8%.

To conclude the study gave proof that vegetarian diets like those of the study participants may be associated with a reduced threat of colorectal cancer, along with prior evidence of the potential reduced risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and mortality. These should be considered carefully in making dietary choices and in giving dietary guidance. People with a strong family history of colorectal cancers should be more mindful of their dietary choices and slowly include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD



1) The JAMA Network Journals. “Vegetarian diet linked to lower risk of colorectal cancers.” ScienceDaily.ScienceDaily, 9 March 2015. <>.