Dr. Thomson shares if vegetarians are less likely to develop cancer.
Well, there’s some evidence from like the Seventh Day Adventist cohorts that suggests there’s a protective effect. Certainly with Mediterranean diets, there may be a protective effect. The difficulty that we have is vegetarians just tend to be healthier in so many ways. They tend to be more aware of other exposures—tobacco--they tend to be more physically active, they tend to control their body weight, so if you, if you had everything else in the background controlled and people are vegetarian versus carnivores, would it make a difference?
I don’t think it’s conclusive. I think it leans certainly towards a more plant-based diet. What a lot of people ask me, “Are you a vegetarian?” And I say, I would call myself a meat-avoider. It’s not that I won’t–if my best friend invites me over for dinner and she has decided to make filet, I am not going to pooh pooh her menu and say no. But I am going to be cautious about how much I eat. I am not going to overdo it, and I am going to not, again, obsess about it and get myself all worked up and everyone around me because I wanted vegan mashed potatoes.
So, you know, it’s just finding that balance. Certainly, I do promote a much more plant-based diet with people. I think that is the way to go in terms of advancing health, not just cancer risk reduction, but probably cardiovascular disease, hypertension control, etc. It’s, to me, a healthier way to go, but on the other hand, bringing some people to a plant-based diet is extremely difficult and you have to take baby steps along the way.
About Dr. Thomson, Ph.D., R.D.:
Dr. Cynthia Thomson, Ph.D., R.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona. She is a registered dietitian with a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences. She has been conducting cancer research since 1994. Dr. Thomson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2003.