Plant-based diets best for lowering disease, cancer risk: study

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Turns out, vegan and vegetarian diets are un-beet-able when it comes to lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, new research has found.

Dr. Angelo Capodici, of the University of Bologna in Italy, and his colleagues reviewed 48 papers published between January 2000 and June 2023 that investigated the link between plant-based diets, cardiovascular health and cancer risk. They found “significant” health benefits in plant-based diets.


The pros of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans have long been espoused.
The pros of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans have long been espoused. bit24 – stock.adobe.com

“Our umbrella review seems consistent with other primary evidence that links the consumption of red processed meats to an increased risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract,” Capodici and his team wrote in their findings, published Wednesday in PLOS One.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” in 2015, noting that there is “sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” IARC also declared red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Nevertheless, Capodici warned that “caution should be paid” before making a large-scale recommendation for plant-based diets because of limitations to the studies and potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies associated with these eating plans.

The pros of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans have long been espoused.

Capodici and crew said lower blood pressure, better blood sugar management and a healthier body mass index are some outcomes of vegetarian and vegan diets.

They did point out that people who tend to follow these diets are “more prone to engage in healthy lifestyles,” such as regular exercise, avoidance of sugar-sweetened beverages and abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, which also reduces the risk of heart disease.

They also noted that pregnant women who adopted vegetarian diets did not lower their risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension compared to women who ate meat.


However, pregnant women who adopted vegetarian diets did not lower their risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension compared to women who ate meat, the researchers found.
However, pregnant women who adopted vegetarian diets did not lower their risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension compared to women who ate meat, the researchers found. Syda Productions – stock.adobe.com

And vegans risk developing anemia due to a lack of vitamin B12, an essential nutrient naturally found in animal products. Vegans are encouraged to eat grains fortified with vitamin B12 or take a daily supplement.

Capodici’s team advised that more research is needed into the effects of vegetarian and vegan diets — they say the studies they analyzed differed in dietary patterns, sample size and participant demographics, among other factors.

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