What is a ‘general’ pro-vegetarian diet?

“According to the study, a general pro-vegetarian diet emphasizes plant-based foods but also includes some animal-based foods,” Gupta explained.

“It scores plant foods positively and reverse scores animal foods. An example will be a chicken sandwich with salad,” she said.

Blank’s view of a general pro-vegetarian diet is that it is tied into “the idea […] that becoming a vegetarian is a process.”

She added: “I think that this is more of a reflection of what real diets are like rather than idealized diets. So I think this has more relevance to the way people live.”

The MediterraneanDASH, and MIND diets generally start in the general pro-vegetarian category but can also be practiced as healthy pro-vegetarian diet, resulting in greater health benefits.

No link between vegetarian diets and cancer?

The lack of a dietary link to cancer may have to do with the specifics of this study, and not necessarily the absence of an association, suggested Blank. “You have to look at several things,” she said.

“While this was a large study, it wasn’t large enough. There weren’t so many cancer deaths — [just 58] — that they could reach statistical significance.”

“Number two is, if you think about what is the natural course of developing cancer, it’s a long-term process. There have to be many changes over an extended period of time,” Blank said, “for a study to be able to really catch that, you know, from cause to actual diagnosis. I don’t think that 12 years is a sufficient time.”

Nonetheless, there may well be a connection, since dietary choices can be related to inflammation over a long period of time.

Blank also noted other potential factors that could influence cancer risk, such as microplastics and pesticides found in food items, which do take a long time at the DNA level to create the changes that would later down the line lead to cancer.