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Vegan Diet - Facts About Preventing Colon Cancer

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Vegan diet is a commonly heard term in recent times. Read this article to know whether vegan diet can prevent or help colon cancer.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan

Published At March 20, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 20, 2023

Introduction

In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death. According to estimates, diet and nutrition cause 20 percent of cancers in underdeveloped nations and 30 percent in rich countries. Several studies have shown a relationship between dietary patterns and cancer. Dietary patterns, which consider the entire diet, enable estimates of illnesses that go beyond those for specific foods or nutrients. People typically consume mixtures of foods rather than individual foods.

Dietary patterns analysis provides useful information in determining links between cancer risk and diet. A vegan diet appears to lessen the incidence of general and female-specific cancer compared to other dietary patterns. In addition, diets that are lacto-ovo-vegetarian appear to offer protection from gastrointestinal malignancies. As a result, it is observed that a vegan diet confers protection against colon cancer (cancer of the intestine).

What Is Vegan Diet?

A dietary intake assessment was conducted to rule out a dietary pattern that aids in the protection against colon cancer. A vegetarian diet contains more than 200 food items, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, oils, dairy products, eggs, beverages, and commercially prepared products such as dietary supplements, dry cereals, and soy milk.

The following are the classification concluded to assess vegetarian status:

  • Vegan - Vegans eat red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy product less than once per month.

  • Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians - Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat red meat, poultry, and fish less than once per month and eggs and dairy once per month.

  • Pesco-Vegetarian - Pesco-vegetarians consumed red meat and poultry less than once per month and fish once per month.

  • Semi-vegetarians - Semi-vegetarians eat red meat, poultry, and fish once per month to once per week, and eggs or dairy at any level.

  • Non-vegetarians - Non-vegetarians, eat red meat, poultry, fish less than once per week, and eggs or dairy at any level.

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine, which is responsible for absorbing water and nutrients from digested food before it is eliminated from the body. The rectum is the final portion of the large intestine, which stores waste before it is expelled through the anus. Colon cancer typically begins as small, noncancerous growths called polyps that form on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Over time, some of these polyps may become cancerous and develop into tumors. If left untreated, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs, through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

The following are risk factors of colon cancer for both men and women:

  • Age.

  • Family history of colon cancer or polyps.

  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Certain genetic conditions.

  • Diet high in red or processed meats.

  • Alcohol consumption.

  • Smoking.

  • Physical inactivity.

Can Vegan Diet Prevent Colon Cancer?

There is no definitive proof that vegan diet can prevent colon cance. Some studies have been conducted to understand the link between vegan diet and colon cancer. Vegetarianism (as a single category) was associated with all malignancies in this study to draw out the result. In the vegan diet, there was little reduction in cancer risk. This association was most obvious when splitting some statistically significant connections between malignancies.

The following are the conclusion of the studies:

  • Several prospective studies have examined links between vegetarian diets and cancer risk. The older studies had found evidences that meat consumption is directly connected with the incidence of particular malignancies.

  • Older people have more risk of cancer than younger people.

  • Vegan women also had a lower incidence of malignancies. Only male semi-vegetarians are an exception as compared to women.

  • Evidence-based on a combined examination of data from two prospective two studies - the Oxford Vegetarian Study and the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition which have been conducted in the United Kingdom (EPIC-Oxford) experiments showed that there was a 12 percent overall cancer risk reduction relative to meat eaters, observed among vegetarians after removing potential confounding variables (third variable that influences both the supposed cause and the supposed effect).

  • In comparison to non-vegetarians, vegetarians and vegans typically consume more plant-based foods, avoid eating meat, and leading other healthy lifestyles. Therefore, there is a basis for suspicion that vegetarian diets may offer cancer protection. In addition, the high fiber content of vegetarian diets contributes to factors that boost insulin sensitivity.

  • There was a clear inverse relationship between vegan diets and cancers that only affect women. Hormonal factors account for a large portion of gynecologic and breast cancers. At the same time, obesity, physical activity, and alcohol intake are the only known lifestyle factors that significantly increase the risk of these malignancies. Vegan diets conceivably protect against cancers linked to obesity. In addition, there is evidence that obesity is a risk factor for several prevalent malignancies that only affect women. Soybeans and products produced from them are also consumed in large quantities by vegans. Foods containing soy are high in phytoestrogens, which may lower the risk of breast cancer. Finally, the group's low protein intake and reduced prevalence of obesity point to a lower calorie intake that may postpone menarche and affect hormone balance at future stages of life.

  • Among lacto-ovo-vegetarians, vegetarians had a lower risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer. According to studies, meat eaters and lacto-ovo-vegetarians are inversely related to the occurrence of gastrointestinal malignancies. In addition, previous research has found a strong inverse relationship between dairy consumption and male and female digestive system malignancies. In studies with null or positive (rather than negative) relationships, high-fat dairy products were often the main exposures of interest. Calcium can reduce proliferation, promote differentiation, and initiate death in gastrointestinal tract cells.

  • Additionally, the experimental population's distinctive lifestyle, which includes a wide range of dietary practices and a relatively low percentage of smokers and drinkers, lessens the likelihood that these non-dietary factors may distort the results.

  • Possible restrictions in studies include inevitable errors in estimating food consumption.

Conclusion

There is no definitive proof of the link between vegan diet and colon cancer. Certain studies reveal that vegan diets, when compared to non-vegetarian diets, may be associated with a decrease in the incidence of all malignancies combined and, specifically, the risk of female-specific cancers. In comparison to meat eaters, vegetarians, mostly lacto-ovo-vegetarians have a lower chance of developing gastrointestinal and other malignancies.

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Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan
Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan

Medical oncology

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