Benefits and Risks of Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Food

A plate of food on a table

Lacto-ovo vegetarians are those who follow a diet including plant-based foods along with dairy and eggs. Analysis of different population based studies indicate that adopting lacto-ovo vegetarian diets may have benefits in reducing the risk of specific cancer types such as gastro-intestinal cancers gallbladder polyps, colorectal cancer and breast cancer in certain populations including North-Indian women.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat red meat, white meat and fish/seafood. However, milk, milk products and eggs are allowed in lacto-ovo vegetarian diets. This is also one of the most common vegetarian diets.

Health Benefits of Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet

“Lacto” refers to Milk and Milk products and “Ovo” refers to eggs. Hence, as the name suggests, lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets are plant-based diets that exclude red meat, white meat and fish/seafoods but include milk, milk products and eggs. Due to their impressive health benefits, these days,  a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is chosen over a meat-based diet including red and processed meat that contains high amounts of saturated fats.

Some of the health benefits of lacto-ovo vegetarian diets include:

  • Reduced rates of obesity
  • Reduced risk of heart diseases
  • Reduced rates of high blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of gallstone
  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels
  • Supports weight loss while maintaining a healthy weight

Since lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D can be easily obtained. However, those who follows a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet should also ensure that they eat the right vegetarian sources such as pulses, soybean, tofu, walnuts etc to obtain the right amounts of nutrients like protein, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diets and Cancer Risk

A plate of food with broccoli

Different studies have previously shown that consumption of red and processed meat may lead to different types of cancers due to the presence of high amounts of saturated fats. Hence, many people has put a deliberate effort to avoid these foods in their diet by adopting a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. However, one may still wonder what the studies and evidence say about the association of lacto-ovo vegetarian diets with different types of cancers. In this blog, we have collated a list of such studies which evaluated the association between the two.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet and Risk of Gallbladder Polyps

In a study published in 2019, the researchers from the Department of Family Medicine, Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital, Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Taiwan evaluated the association of vegetarian diets, particularly the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, with the development of gallbladder polyps (95% of gallbladder polyps are usually benign). Data for the analysis was obtained from a cross-sectional study which included 11,717 individuals who received a health checkup at Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital between October 2011 and October 2016. The prevalence of gallbladder polyps in this study group was 8.3%. 

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet and Risk of GastroIntestinal Cancers

In a study published in 2013, the researchers evaluated the association between different dietary patterns including non-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians , pescatarians, vegans, and semi-vegetarian and the risk of overall cancer. The study found that vegan diets may be associated with a significant reduction in overall cancer incidence in both genders combined and for female-specific cancers. The study also found that lacto-ovo vegetarians may be associated with a decreased risk of gastrointestinal cancers.

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