People who follow a high-fiber and meat-free diet are in much lower risk of common bowel disorder called diverticular disease, a new study says.
Oxford University researchers found that those who follow vegetarian diets are about 30 percent less likely to develop diverticular disease than their meat-eating peers.
Diverticular disease occurs due to development of pouches or diverticula in the intestine, usually the large intestine or colon. The condition is more common in countries such as the US and the UK where people's diet is generally low in fiber.
Diverticula usually cause no symptoms but when becoming inflamed, they are called diverticulitis and may cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, fever, irregular bowel habits, and bloating.
Dr. Francesca Crowe and his colleagues recorded dietary habits of more than 47,000 adults, and followed them for 12 years to detect those who might develop diverticular disease.
According to the new findings published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), individuals who consumed around 25 grams of dietary fiber each day were less likely to be admitted to hospital or die from diverticular disease than people whose daily meals included less than 14 grams of fiber.
However, the researchers did not recommend people to adopt a solely vegetarian diet to lower their risk of diverticular disease but urged them to follow a healthier diet including more fiber and less meat.
"Overall the opportunity for preventing the occurrence of diverticular disease and other conditions, such as colorectal cancer, probably lies in the modification of diet, at either a population or an individual level," the researchers suggested.
The new research adds new evidence to previous findings about possible benefits of vegetarian or high fiber and less meat diets.
However, it is not strong enough to show a cause and effect relation between the studied dietary choices and lower risk of diverticular disease, which needs more sophisticate studies.