Forget Atkins – go ‘fishkins’ to cut cancer risk in half, shows new study

A massive study of over 77,000 people has found that eating meat increases risk for colorectal cancer by 75 per cent compared to those who follow a largely vegetarian and fish-based diet.

Colorectal cancer is the second largest cause of death and is set to almost double (90% increase) by 2030 among those aged 20 to 34.

The study, published in the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine journal, shows that eating a vegetarian diet lowers risk for colorectal cancer by 22% – almost a quarter. However, there was a 43% reduction, almost a halving in incidence in fish-eating vegetarians, which is what I advocate. Put it the other way around that’s a 75% increased risk of colorectal cancer in meat-eaters versus ‘fishitarians’.

This is hardly surprising since we’ve known for more than a decade that the three greatest risks for colorectal cancer are a lack of vegetables, too much meat and alcohol. Meat, especially red, processed and cured meats, introduce three known carcinogens largely created from cooking or curing meat, as I explained in my blog Atkins diet cancer risk.

Fish, on the other hand, has repeatedly been shown to be anti-cancer, especially oily fish, which reduces inflammation and protects cells in the colon. It is also high in vitamin B12 needed for methylation. Poor methylation is also a contributor to cancer risk.

Compared with non-vegetarians, this study found that vegans had a 16 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer while dairy eating vegetarians had 18 percent less risk – less than half the risk reduction of fish-eating vegetarians.

This is why I am not an advocate of a high meat (and dairy) diet as advocated by followers of the Atkins or Banting diet. Eating a low GL diet, with plenty of vegetarian sources of protein from lentils, beans, nuts and seeds, plus fish, ideally three times a week, is consistent with reducing disease risk and staying healthy.

If you are intent on losing weight by cutting out carbs completely it is better to go ‘fishkins’ rather than Atkins, however my Low GL diet, which reduces carbs but doesn’t banish all bread and pasta, is equally effective and much easier to do – with none of the health risks, only benefits.