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Study: Following a Vegetarian Diet May Protect You From Diverticular Disease

Published on , Last Updated on June 11, 2013

Vegetarian Diet

There are a lot of sound arguments in favor of vegetarianism. Regardless of whether it’s because of animal-rights, environmental concerns, or done in the interest of general personal health — not eating meat is something many people are very passionate about.

However, for individuals who are at high-risk for, or already suffering from certain forms of bowel disease, newly published research may present the strongest argument yet for going vegetarian.

The British Medical Journal recently presented the findings of a study carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit (CEU), which suggest that individuals who follow a vegetarian diet may be up to a third less likely, on average, to develop diverticular disease than those who regularly eat meat [1].

Diverticular disease is especially prevalent among westerners, and is statistically one of the most common forms of bowel disease in both the United States and UK.

Breaking Down the Study

The study itself was overseen by Dr. Francesca Crowe, who is also the Principle Investigator for the CEU’s WebQ online dietary questionnaire, as well as the coordinator for Oxford’s participant cohort in the well known European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), an astoundingly large, decades-long multinational research study. Using her expertise in working with large data sets, Dr. Crowe compared the information available on 47,033 British adults participating in the EPIC program. Of this group, 15,459 participants were documented as following vegetarian lifestyles.

According to Dr, Crowe and her colleagues, careful examination of the nearly 12 years of data available on the combined 47,033 person sample population, revealed a total of 812 documented cases of diverticular disease. Once additional triggers of the disease, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and high body mass were adjusted for, the research team found noticeably lower rates of diverticular disease among vegetarian participants as compared to their meat eating peers.

The researchers also observed a dramatic reduction in both the occurrence and severity of diverticular disease in patients who’s normal diets included an abundance of high fiber foods. Specifically, patients with an average daily fiber intake of 25g, or more, where found to be much less likely to require hospitalization for the condition than those who regularly consumed less than 14g per day.

Admittedly, these findings are not especially groundbreaking. However, they do help to underline previously held notions as to the importance of a fiber-rich diet in relation to bowel disease. It also illustrates some of the less obvious benefits of a healthy vegetarian diet.

The findings of the study are a good reminder – even those individuals who aren’t quite ready to give up our omnivorous dietary practices — that increased vegetable consumption is an excellent way to improve overall health. Not only because they’re an easily accessible source of dietary fiber, but also thanks to being a rich source of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our bodies require to thrive. Is there any better reason to start adding more fruits and veggies to your diet?

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM


  1. BMJ-British Medical Journal. Vegetarian diet may protect against common bowel disorder. ScienceDaily. 2011 July 20.

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Posted In: Clinical Studies,Colon Health,Colon Health Blog,Lifestyle Tips,Nutrition
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