Scientists from the University of Oxford have discovered a link between lower overall cancer risk and consuming meat five times or less per week.
The study, which analyzed data from 472,377 British adults aged between 40 and 70, found that compared to individuals who ate meat more than five times a week, those who consumed it five times or less had a 2% lower overall cancer risk.
The risk was 10% lower for those who ate fish but not meat and 14% lower among vegetarians and vegans.
The research team used health records to calculate the incidence of new cancers that developed over an average period of 11 years.
Their findings also indicated specific benefits when looking at particular types of cancer.
Participants eating meat five times or less a week had a 9% lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to those eating meat more than five times a week.
Among men, the risk of prostate cancer was 20% lower for those who ate fish but not meat and 31% lower for those following a vegetarian diet, again compared to men who consumed meat more than five times a week.
Furthermore, post-menopausal women who adhered to a vegetarian diet were found to have an 18% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate meat more than five times per week.
However, the study suggests that this could be attributed to vegetarian women generally having a lower body mass index (BMI) than meat-eating women.
The researchers caution that due to the observational nature of the study, it’s not possible to definitively establish a causal relationship between diet and cancer risk.
Additionally, since dietary data were collected at a single point rather than over a continuous period, they may not accurately represent participants’ lifetime diets.
The study’s authors suggest future research could focus on investigating the associations between low or no-meat diets and the risk of individual cancers in larger populations over longer periods.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, could potentially shape future dietary recommendations for cancer prevention.
However, more extensive and long-term research is needed to fully understand these connections.
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