Plant-based diet linked to lower colorectal cancer risk in men

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A study led by Jihye Kim from Kyung Hee University and published in BMC Medicine found that eating a plant-based diet rich in healthy plant foods like whole grains, vegetables, and legumes could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in men.

This form of cancer is the third most common globally, posing a lifetime risk of one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women.

Key Findings

Lower Cancer Risk

Among 79,952 American men, those who consumed the highest average daily amounts of healthy plant-based foods had a 22% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to those who consumed the least.

Quality of Plant Foods Matters

The study highlights the importance of the nutritional quality of plant-based foods in the diet.

Healthy plant-based foods were defined as whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, while unhealthy plant foods included refined grains, fruit juices, and added sugars.

Gender and Ethnic Differences

  • The study did not find a strong association between the quality of plant-based diets and the risk of colorectal cancer in women.
  • The link between diet and cancer risk also varied by race and ethnicity, with the strongest associations found among Japanese American and white men.

Underlying Mechanisms

The researchers speculate that the antioxidants found in healthy plant foods might contribute to lowering the risk of colorectal cancer by suppressing chronic inflammation.

Implications and Future Research

The study offers valuable insights into the potential protective effects of a high-quality plant-based diet against colorectal cancer, particularly in men.

It also suggests that the effectiveness of such diets may vary based on gender and ethnicity, warranting further research in these areas.

For those concerned about cancer:

  • Consider other recent studies linking dairy products to a higher risk of cancer and the potential benefits of vitamin D supplements in reducing cancer death.

For overall health:

  • Recent studies suggest that coffee may help some men fight prostate cancer and that a common depression medication might halt cancer growth.


This study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

However, more research is needed to understand the nuances of these associations, including why men seem to benefit more than women and why the effects vary among different ethnic groups.

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