Vegetarian diet and cancer

A recent article in Telegraph, UK on vegetarian diet and increased risk of cancer caught my attention. I’m a vegetarian and been one all my life, my parents and my re-traceable lineage has also been vegetarian. So I was clearly curious seeing an article linking vegetarians and cancer.

Is it easy being a vegetarian?

Most often I’m asked by new vegetarian converts how I ensure a balanced nutrition in my diet especially proteins. Various vegetarian communities around the world has tackled this problem by using alternatives. In Indian cooking, lentils and beans are a staple in everyday food which is our main protein source making up for the lack of meat. In Singapore, the buddhist vegetarian food also contains beans and soya (mock meat) to supply proteins.

Is vegetarian diet bad for your health?

This article left me with more questions, mainly because of the way it was written. Vegetarian diet over generations increases the change of a genetic mutation which makes vegetarians susceptible to inflammation (linked to heard disease and cancer). A little skeptical about this article, I looked up for published papers. I found various published material that vegetarian diet confers protection against cancer, except for colorectal cancer for which vegetarians have higher risk.

It is not very surprising to see contrasting scientific evidence for a single issue. Further probe into this issue made me realize this was just a case of poor science journalism. I found another news article on the same research which had better communication of the science. This article provided a more balanced view by looking at both sides of being a vegetarian. The levels of pesticides in plant based products could also be responsible for the genetic mutation in vegetarians. Responsible and accurate science journalism is crucial at this time and age of media options.

A case of irresponsible journalism

Diet of course determines one’s health for the better or worse. Every diet has its own pros and cons, a balanced communication of which is crucial. I strongly believe extremes are bad – everyone becoming meat eaters would exorbitantly increase carbon footprints (associated with climate change), while complete vegetarian diet would affect the food chain (over harvesting, agriculture and land use related issues).  Thus issues must be effectively communicated to the general public for a holistic decision making. This is what I think the Telegraph UK article has completely missed. In times when most of us scroll down news streams in our smartphones, such attractive yet irresponsible journalism can negatively influence people.

I hope the vegetarian discussion is  food for your thought. Meanwhile when you are thinking, why not a good South Indian vegetarian meals.




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