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A scientific review of the reported effects of vegan nutrition on the occurrence and prevalence of cancer and cardiovascular disease

Brighid O'Neill

University of London


28 Sept 2009


21 Apr 2010


31 May 2010






cancer, cardiovascular disease, non-communcable disease, diet, vegan, vegetarian, omnivorous, protein, essential fatty acids, calcium, cholesterol, B12


That there exists an increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases is not readily disputed, though best practice for remedying these afflictions remains highly contentious. This paper investigates the influence of a wholly herbivorous (or vegan) diet on two leading non-communicable diseases (cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD)). Relevant aspects considered are the biochemical effects of varying dietary concentrations of protein, calcium, essential fatty acids, cholesterol and cobalamin (B12). Current literature and research investigating interactions between each focal compound and either cancer or CVD was assessed (noting where compounds influence both diseases simultaneously, the impact considered greatest in significance was chosen). Results are typically complex and indirect, with primary effects leading to secondary effects involving other compounds (including counterbalancing other focal compounds), and ancillary effects on comorbidity factors of the focal diseases. Outcomes included: weak risk reduction for colorectal and breast cancer due to a decreased propensity toward excessive dietary protein intake; possible risk reduction of prostate cancer from reduced calcium intake; cancer risk promotion due to disproportionate intakes of omega-3 relative to omega-6; CVD risk reduction from reduced cholesterol intake and insufficient evidence to consider B12 intake either promotive or predisposing for CVD. Caution is advised attributing dietary recommendations to these findings, as high levels of contention exist between authors due to disparate study results. Greater unanimity may be borne from future trials.

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