Study shows long term vegetarian diet increases risk of cancer

Study shows long term vegetarian diet increases risk of cancer

According to a new study, long term vegetarianism can lead to genetic mutations that result in higher risks of diseases like cancer and heart diseases.

A team of scientists from Cornell University in the US have said that people who had a primarily vegetarian diet for generations were much more likely to carry DNA that increases risk of inflammation. They said that the mutation occurred in humans in order to make it easier for vegetarian people to absorb essential fatty acids from plants.

They said that the phenomena have a knock-on effect of boosting the production of arachidonic acid that increases the risk of inflammatory disease and cancer. They said that when a vegetarian diet is added with diet high in vegetable oils, the mutated gene quickens the process of turning fatty acids into dangerous arachidonic acid. The team compared hundreds of genomes from a primarily vegetarian population in Pune, India with that of traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found significant genetic difference that resulted vegetarian population having higher risk of the diseases.

Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell, said, "Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids. In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer. The mutation appeared in the human genome long ago, and has been passed down through the human family."

The study is in line with previous studies that showed that vegetarian populations are much more likely to suffer colorectal cancer than meat eaters. The findings are contradictory as meat eating is also linked to increased risk of cancer.

The study was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.