From its rich levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids to its high protein content, there are plenty of reasons to buy fresh seafood for you and your family. Now, a large American study may have found another: research suggests that a mostly plant-based diet — one that includes seafood and fish as well — may lower the risk of colorectal cancers.
Previous research has long suggested that vegetarians have a reduced risk of certain cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. However, when a research team at Loma Linda University at California studied the dietary patterns, medical records and cancer registries of Seventh-Day Adventists to examine the link between eating habits and cancer prevalence, they found that there was a clear link between diet and colorectal cancer rates. Their study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, could offer new insight into the health benefits of primarily plant-based diets.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church encourages its followers to pursue a healthy lifestyle and abstain from smoking and drinking. The study examined the data 77,659 members across the United States, paying close attention to their dietary habits. After an average period of 7.3 years, the study group reported 380 cases of colon cancer and 110 cases of rectal cancer. Overall, the researchers found that the study’s vegetarians were 22% less likely to develop these colorectal malignancies than the regular meat eaters. However, pesco-vegetarians, which the research team defined as people who ate fish at least once a month and meat less than once a month, had the biggest risk reduction at 43%. Meanwhile, lacto-ovo vegetarians, who consumed eggs and dairy while limiting fish and meat to less than once a month, saw a reduced risk of 18%. Finally, vegans, who ate eggs, dairy, fish, and meat less than once a month, had a 16% risk reduction.
The research team pointed out that their study could reveal some helpful information about dietary choices: for example, even limiting fish and meat to once a week was found to be beneficial, with semi-vegetarians demonstrating an 8% risk reduction. Moreover, the researchers pointed out that a person doesn’t need to cut out all eggs, dairy and fish to reduce their cancer risk; one team member even stated that the occasional cheeseburger wouldn’t hurt as long as the person’s overall diet was primarily based on fruits, vegetables, and seafood.
Critics have pointed out that the new study isn’t conclusive, as it did not randomly select people to follow specific diets. However, with one study showing that approximately 4.7% of men and women diagnosed with colon and rectum cancer at some point during their lifetime, the data collected offers further support for a diet that is often recommended for cancer prevention. And with a variety of options available to help consumers buy fresh seafood, these diets may be easier to achieve than ever.
Previous research has suggested that the high level of omega-3 fatty acids in fish may reduce inflammation and lower the risk of some types of cancer. Likewise, fatty fish are also a rich source of vitamin D, which has been shown to protect against colon cancer and other malignancies.