Going veg not as healthy as it seems?

Some recent developments seem to challenge the long held belief that consumption of fruit and vegetables helps prevent cancer.

First, there is new evidence in the UK showing a link between nitrate-rich fruit and vegetables and gullet cancer. Research shows that the rise of gullet cancer follows the same curve as the use of nitrate fertilisers but with a time lag of ten to twenty years. The research team plans to carry out further tests to find out the extent of the problem.

Then, another research study shows that increasing intake of fruit and vegetables only accounts for the protection against about 2.5% of cancers. Further, the researchers said they could not rule out that even the small reduction of cancer risk seen was down to the fact that the kind of people who ate more fruit and vegetables lived healthier lives in many other respects too.

Lastly, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who is an icon of a super-fit vegetarian, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The nine-time Wimbledom champion said she cried after finding out. Besides saying that the diagnosis was like a "personal 9/11", some other things she said may not make pleasant reading for vegetarians:

"I feel so in control of my life and my body, and then this comes, and it's completely out of my hands."

"I stay in shape and eat right, and it happened to me."

I never believe that going veg is the panacea to all health problems. I am well aware that the excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has put people eating fruit and vegetables under much risk. But would that stop me from being a vegetarian? Not a chance. To begin with, health was never the main reason for my dietary preference. It was a commitment to animal welfare and to environmental protection that was the driving force and I am not about to waver.

And back to the issue of health. I think one has to look at a combination of factors to determine how healthy fruit and vegetable consumption is. One should look at the way fruit and vegetables is consumed. For example, is there a rich variety? Is unrefined, whole food being consumed? One should also consider the enormous health hazard of food containing animal protein.

After all, the researcher whose study confirmed that "any association of intake of fruits and vegetables with risk of cancer is weak at best" stressed that specific substances contained in certain fruit and vegetables could still have an important, protective effect. And data still suggests that fruit and vegetables may protect us from cardiovascular disease.

All considered, I don't think I've made a bad choice.

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