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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Loma Linda Research Links Plant-based Diets to Lowered Risk of Colorectal Cancers

A new study out of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that vegetarian and modified vegetarian diets are associated with lowered risks of colorectal cancer. “Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Screening efforts such as colonoscopies have helped save many lives by detecting precancerous polyps and removing them,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Orlich, assistant professor in the School of Public Health. “However, it is even better to prevent cancers from forming in the first place.

Diet is a potentially important approach to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.” The study showed that all vegetarians in the sample population had on average a 22 percent relative reduction in the risk of developing colorectal cancer, compared to non-vegetarians (defined as eating meat weekly). This research comes from a nationwide sample of more than 77,000 Seventh-day Adventists who are participating in the Adventist Health Studies. “People consuming healthy vegetarian diets may have a lower risk of colorectal cancer than non-vegetarians,” said Dr. Orlich. However, he added, the study’s vegetarians “not only ate less meat than the non-vegetarians, but also less sweets, snack foods, refined grains, and caloric beverages and more fruits, vegetables, avocados, whole grains, beans, and nuts.”

In the future, Dr. Orlich and his research team plan to examine the relationships of several specific foods to colorectal cancer in their population. “Interesting possibilities could include how dietary factors may alter the expression of certain genes,” he said, “or how they may affect the many microbes that inhabit the large intestine and the effects that such changes may have on cancer development.” The JAMA article can be read here:

Dr. Michael Orlich


[Photo: Dr. Michael Orlich]