Gastrointestinal cancers account for 35 percent of all cancer-related deaths worldwide, which begs the question, how can we better protect our digestive health today? The key is being mindful of what we put into our bodies. Upholding high standards for your diet is essential for maintaining your digestive health, and new research reveals that eating plant-based can protect your body from several digestive cancers including liver, esophageal, gastric, and colorectal.

Researchers from the Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine observed how diet correlated with several common digestive cancers to better understand diet's role in gut and gastrointestinal health. By examining data from five databases including PubMed, Medline, Embase, Web of Science databases, and Scopus, 3,059,009 people were analyzed, a massive sample size that allowed the researchers to effectively determine how plant-based diets impacted the development of common digestive cancers.

The study found that plant-based diets were associated with a reduced risk of pancreas cancer, colorectal cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, and esophageal cancer in the cohort studies. The researchers also found similar connections in case-control studies for pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, pharyngolaryngeal cancer, and liver cancer. Despite these connections, this study found no associations between plant-based diets and colon or rectal cancer. Overall, the researchers determined that eating more plant-based can curb your risk of these digestive cancers.

“The implication of this study is a call for action to pay special attention to plant-based diets to reduce the risk of digestive system cancers,” the study claims. “In summary, it is important to understand and reveal eating habits that make our lives healthier and the important role these habits play in the management and prevention of oncological diseases. Our study proposes that a plant-based diet is promising to prevent the development of cancer."

Eating Plant-Based Protects the Digestive System

The study notes that a plant-based diet excludes all animal-based products, defined by higher levels of fruit, vegetable, legume, and nut consumption. Examining the eating habits of the respondents, the researchers concludes that those following plant-based diet patterns showed fewer signs of digestive cancer development when compared to those consuming meat and dairy products.

This research joins a growing body of information forging a significant connection between plant-based foods and gut health. This September, another study from the University of Birmingham found that eating more lentils, beans, and legumes changes the gut microbiome to be healthier and generates a flush of positive health effects, as well as a lower risk of disease.

Adopting a plant-based diet may initially be a challenge, especially because your gut is likely telling your brain that you need high-fat foods. Another recent study found that bacteria in your gut are responsible for those insatiable high-fat food cravings. The study aims to better understand why it's hard to cut out foods such as milk and red meat to help consumers transition to healthier plant-based options.

Meat and Dairy Consumption May Threaten Your Health

The researchers also suggested that eating red or processed meats correlates with an increased risk of digestive cancers. One study suggests that giving up meat can lower your risk of cancer by 14 percent. And cutting out meat from your diet can have even more significant effects for specific cancers such as prostate cancer, which is associated with a 29 percent reduced risk.

That is because processed meats including bacon and deli meats have been categorized as Group 1 carcinogens by the World Health Organization. Despite not finding a connection in the most recent study, Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found a significant connection between red and processed meat consumption and a higher risk of colon cancer.

Bottom Line: Try Plant-Based to Prevent Several Cancer Risks

Research shows that regular meat consumption leads to cancer, and this new study shows that adopting a plant-based diet could significantly reduce your risk of several common digestive cancers.

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