More people are ‘going green’ as the trend to be vegetarian has become mainstream with 375 million vegetarians in 2014. One of the main reasons for people choosing to become vegetarian is the belief that it lowers risk of cancer. The big “C” has contributed globally to an estimated 14.1 million cancer cases, 8.2 million cancer deaths and 32.6 million people living with cancer in 2012, so we are concerned and rightfully so. The question is… does a vegetarian and plant-based diet actually lower your risk of cancer?
There is a large and growing body of evidence which does demonstrate the connection between a plant-based diet and lowering cancer risk. We will start by looking at one of the highest quality studies available. A systematic review and meta-analysis was published in 2011 which included seven studies and a total of about 125 000 participants2. They found that vegetarians had a significantly lower incidence of cancer (18%) as well as significantly lower mortality from ischemic heart disease (29%) than non-vegetarians.
Another study published in May 2015 which followed about 78 000 people over a period of 7 years found that vegetarian diets were associated with an overall lower incidence of colorectal cancer3. They also found that Pesco-vegetarians (includes fish) in particular had a much lower risk as there was a 27% drop in the risk of developing colorectal cancer if you switch from fully vegetarian to including fish. The authors believe that it’s the omega-3 fatty acids in fish which may contribute to this lowering of risk. These are quite significant findings considering colorectal cancer is the 5th most common cancer in South Africa amongst both men and women.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) in collaboration with the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) published an updated second report in 2007 named ‘Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective’. A panel consisting of 22 of the world’s leading scientists examined the latest scientific literature and compiled 10 evidence-based nutrition recommendations for cancer prevention. The fourth recommendation here is to “Eat mostly foods of plant origin” and they provide more specific personal recommendations.
- Consume at least 5 portions (400g) of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits every day
- Consume relatively unprocessed cereals (grains) and/or legumes with every meal
- Limit starchy food that is refined
- People who consume starchy roots or tubers as staples also are to ensure intake of sufficient non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and pulses (legumes)
Evidence shows that most diets which are cancer protective are mainly made up from foods of plant origin. More emphasis is placed onto those plant foods that are high in nutrients, high in dietary fibre and low in energy density. They also protect against the gaining of weight as they are typically low in energy.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet:
- Reshape your plate by designating about half of your plate to non-starchy veggies. Have a look at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ for more information.
- Drink up! Juicing and making smoothies has also become extremely popular as it’s a convenient way to get in your daily fruit and veggies. Aim for fruit to veggie ratio of about 1:3 as this will ensure that your veggie juice/smoothie doesn’t contain excessive amounts of sugar.
- Eat 5 a day! Eat 5 servings of fruit (2) and vegetables (3) per day.
All FUTURELIFE® variants are suitable for Lacto-Vegetarians. FUTURELIFE® products are predominantly non-GMO maize and soya based foods where soya and Soya Isolate are the primary protein sources (in most products). Our products are suitable for Lacto-Vegetarians because we add a minimal amount of sodium caseinate (0.02%) which is derived from milk. This caseinate is used merely as an emulsifier for our fat source. The only FUTURELIFE® products that do not contain sodium caseinate and are therefore dairy-free are the FUTURELIFE® ZERO with OATS, Smart Bread™ and Smart Fibre™ 2in1. FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart food, FUTURELIFE® ZERO and FUTURELIFE® SmartBars contain a skimmed milk powder.