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Here is One Way a Vegan Diet May Help Prevent Cancer

In addition to providing the needed nutrients cells need to stay healthy, the vegan diet also has this going for it.


As you probably already know, obesity is a risk factor for several types of cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, and/or poor nutrition - and thus could also be prevented.

Cancers that are especially related to obesity include:
• Breast (in women past menopause)
• Colon and rectum
• Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
• Esophagus
• Kidney
• Pancreas

Being overweight or obese might also raise the risk of other cancers, such as:
• Gallbladder
• Liver
• Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
• Multiple myeloma
• Cervix
• Ovary
• Aggressive forms of prostate cancer

Obviously, food that are “energy-dense”, meaning they carry a higher amount of calories, are contributing factors to becoming overweight – especially if we do not do enough physical activity to burn off those calories. But new research finds that even if you do not gain weight, those high calorie foods may also increase your cancer risk.

Dietary Energy Density is a term used to describe the measure of food quality and the relationship of calories to nutrients. The more calories per gram of weight, the higher the DED.

Researchers in Arizona have found, using data compiled from 90,000 postmenopausal women, that those who consumed a diet higher in DED were 10% more likely to develop an obesity-related cancer – independent of their body mass index. So even women of normal weight had a greater cancer risk based upon the foods they ate if they were energy dense and nutrient poor. The reason is likely related to metabolic dysregulation – a well known risk factor for many cancers.

Metabolic dysregulation refers to an alteration in glucose, insulin and lipids which can result in health conditions such as high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol).

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So what foods are considered high-DED? Mostly foods that are processed, which include those frequently consumed on the Standard American Diet – burgers, pizza, sweets.

And the foods that are low-DED? VEGAN whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and beans.

In addition to the potential for losing excess weight and chronic health conditions that contribute to higher risk, the vegan diet may help prevent cancer through another mechanism as well.

Animal proteins are known to increase a level of a cancer-promoting growth hormone known as IGF-1. A recent Loma Linda study found that even after just two weeks of going vegan, IGF-1 levels can drop sufficiently enough to slow the growth of cancer cells.

What’s stopping you? Go vegan today!

Journal References:
Cynthia A. Thomson, et al. Association between Dietary Energy Density and Obesity-Associated Cancer: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.06.010

Tantamango-Bartley Y, et al. Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-Risk Population. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Feb;22(2):286-94. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-1060. Epub 2012 Nov 20.

Additional Resources:
American Cancer Society

Photo Credit:
By Vegan Feast Catering via Wikimedia Commons