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Fish-and-Veggie Diets Cut Cancer Risk

Vegetarian diets that included seafood offered the best protection against colorectal cancer in the Adventist Health Study.

People who eat primarily plant based diets with some seafood cut their colorectal cancer risk dramatically, by 43 percent. (This type of diet has a name: pescovegetarian.)

That’s the finding from the Adventist Health Study that included more than 77,000 Seventh Day Adventists (JAMA Internal Medicine, May, 2015). Eating meat, drinking alcohol and smoking is discouraged by the religion, and about half of the participants ate no meat. Some were vegan, while others included eggs and dairy or fish in their plant-based regimens.

Study Found Vegetarian Benefit for Cancer Risk:

The average follow-up in the study was just over 7 years, with 490 cases of colon or rectal cancer detected during that time. Vegetarians were 22 percent less likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer than meat-eaters. Those who regularly included eggs and dairy but no fish still had an 18 percent lower risk.

This observational study couldn’t establish cause and effect, but it looks like a strong argument to eat more vegetables and cut back on meat. Substituting fish and shellfish for meat or poultry appears to offer the greatest benefit.

Update on Diet and Cancer Risk:

An analysis found that a prudent/healthy dietary pattern, particularly a Mediterranean-type diet, reduced the chance of breast cancer recurrence (Breast Care, April 2018). The Mediterranean diet is chock-full of vegetables and fruits and contains more fish than red meat. One discordant note: the Mediterranean diet often or usually includes wine with meals, and this analysis, like others, shows that alcohol consumption raises the cancer risk for the breast.

Specific foods may also be linked to lower cancer risk. One review found that mushrooms can activate the immune system and reduce the likelihood of cancer cell metastasis (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, April 22, 2018). This could be a delicious component of a pescovegetarian diet.

How to Cook Fish:

Some people are reluctant to eat fish because they don’t know how to cook it. Most types can be poached, broiled or grilled, but it may cook more quickly than meat. If you would like some delicious recipes, consider our book, Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy.  You’ll find instructions for dishes such as fish tacos with radish and lime, shrimp and grits, horseradish-crusted salmon with cranberry catsup and spicy fresh tuna salad, along with plenty of vegetarian dishes.

Revised 8/23/18

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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