Vegetarian Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancers in JAMA Internal Medicine Article

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Report is part of Loma Linda University Health’s ongoing efforts to share knowledge and have a lasting impact on the health of the world

Researchers at Loma Linda University Health have found that eating a vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancers compared with non-vegetarians in a study of Seventh-day Adventist men and women. The findings are described in an article published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. The study is part of Loma Linda University Health’s ongoing Adventist Health Study-2, which began in 2002.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The report notes that although great attention has been paid to screening, primary prevention through lowering risk factors remains an important objective. Dietary factors have been identified as a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer, including red meat, which is linked to increased risk, and food rich in dietary fiber, which is linked to reduced risk.

Among 77,659 study participants, lead author Michael J. Orlich, M.D., Ph.D., and coauthors identified 380 cases of colon cancer and 110 cases of rectal cancer. Compared with non-vegetarians, vegetarians had a 22 percent lower risk for all colorectal cancers, 19 percent lower risk for colon cancer and 29 percent lower risk for rectal cancer. Compared with non-vegetarians, vegans had a 16 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, 18 percent less for lacto-ovo (eat milk and eggs) vegetarians, 43 percent less in pesco-vegetarians (eat fish) and 8 percent less in semi-vegetarians (eat some meat), according to the study results.

This is the first report to come out of Loma Linda University Health’s ongoing Adventist Health Study-2 investigation that links participant diets to a specific form of cancer.

“If such associations are causal, they may be important for primary prevention of colorectal cancers,” Dr. Orlich said. “Prior studies have linked a vegetarian diet with the potential reduced risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and mortality.”

Dr. Orlich added, “The evidence in this online JAMA Internal Medicine article that vegetarian diets similar to those of our study participants may be associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer should also be considered carefully in making dietary choices and in giving dietary guidance.”

This report is part of Loma Linda University Health’s overarching Adventist Health Studies, which started in 1958 and is one of the world’s longest running set of research studies on whole health, aging, and longevity. This link provides more information on the studies:

The studies are distinctive and instructive. For example, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently cited Loma Linda University Health’s Adventist Health Studies on his “Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta” show that focused on healthy aging and greater longevity and which aired in February on the CNN International channel. (The show is posted on CNN’s website.) The study findings are also frequently discussed at healthcare seminars and conferences. The 42nd Annual “Healthy People in Healthy Communities” conference on March 9-11, for instance, includes researchers who will share aspects of the collective findings in Loma Linda University Health’s Adventist Health Studies. The following link provides more detail on the conference, which is hosted by and at Loma Linda University Health:

Loma Linda University Health’s Adventist Health Study-2 started with funding from the National Cancer Institute (which is part of the National Institutes of Health). In 2011, the Adventist Health Study-2 was awarded a $5.5 million five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue the study.

“We are climbing the stairway to greater knowledge and insights. This online JAMA Internal Medicine report takes us another step upward. More Adventist Health Study-2 reports will be published in the months ahead,” said Dr. Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, the president of Loma Linda University Health. “The Loma Linda University Health team continues to research issues that aim to make a difference in people’s lives. We continue our commitment to lead people toward greater wholeness -- an integrated health lifestyle that includes mind, body, and spirit.”

Additional detail on funding, financial disclosures, other authors, and other items related to the March 9 study on diet and colorectal cancer can be found within the full text of the article, which is posted on the JAMA Internal Medicine website:


About Loma Linda University Health
Loma Linda University Health includes Loma Linda University's eight professional schools, Loma Linda University Medical Center's six hospitals and more than 800 faculty physicians located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Established in 1905, Loma Linda University Health is a global leader in education, research, and clinical care. It offers over 100 academic programs and provides quality healthcare to 40,000 inpatients and 1.5 million outpatients each year. A Seventh-day Adventist organization, Loma Linda University Health is a faith-based health system with a mission "to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ."

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Calvin Naito
Loma Linda University Health
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