Meat Free Monday One day a week can make a world of difference

Cancer risk 14 per cent lower for meat free eaters

Oxford study of 470,000 people firms up evidence of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet

Posted : 25 February 2022

Being part of MFM is a bit like getting medical insurance. Not only is the meat free grub on your plate delicious and good for the planet, it can also actively lower the risk of getting cancer.

A new 10-year analysis of the eating habits of Britons aged 40 to 70 has found that the chance of developing the disease is 14 per cent lower for vegetarians than it is for people who eat meat more often than five times a week.

Researchers at Oxford University analysed the data of more than 470,000 participants in the UK Biobank study to make the discovery, which backs up the findings of a 2013 report from California, although that put the health protection afforded by a veggie diet a lower 9 per cent.

The data was divided according to diet into four brackets: vegetarian, pescatarian, “regular” meat eaters and “low” meat eaters. More than half of participants (52 per cent) ate meat at least six times per week, 44 per cent ate meat five times or less a week, 2.3 per cent were pescatarian and 1.8 per cent were vegetarian or vegan.

The report, published in the journal BMC Medicine, concluded that vegetarianism was “associated with a lower risk of all cancer sites when compared to regular meat-eaters”. However, the researchers did observe that this may also be due to other factors. As they pointed out: “Vegetarians … differ from meat-eaters in many non-dietary lifestyle factors, such as lower smoking and alcohol consumption, and higher physical activity.”

They also found that women who enjoy a vegetarian diet were 18 per cent less likely than regular meat eaters to develop postmenopausal breast cancer – thought that could also be down to their lower body mass index – and men who don’t eat meat have a 31 per cent lower risk of prostate cancer.

Numerous reports have already underlined the health benefits of eating less meat. Going vegan can cut the risk of prostate cancer by a third, for example, and going veggie can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by a fifth, while meat eating has been linked to cancers including those of the kidneys and pancreas.

Read the report

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