Co-consumption of Vegetables and Fruit, Whole Grains, and Fiber Reduces the Cancer Risk of Red and Processed Meat in a Large Prospective Cohort of Adults from Alberta's Tomorrow Project

Nutrients. 2020 Jul 29;12(8):2265. doi: 10.3390/nu12082265.


We examined whether co-consumption of red and processed meat with key foods items and food constituents recommended for cancer prevention (vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and fiber) mitigates cancer incidence. In a prospective cohort of 26,218 adults aged 35-69 years at baseline, dietary intake was collected through 124-item past-year food frequency questionnaire. Incidence of all-cause and 15 cancers previously linked to red and processed meat intake was obtained through data linkage with a cancer registry (average follow-up 13.5 years). Competing risk Cox Proportional Hazard models estimated cancer risk and Accelerated Failure Time models estimated time-to-cancer occurrence for different combinations of intake levels while considering mortality from vital statistics and established confounders. Co-consumption of low vegetables and fruit intake with high processed meat was associated with higher incidence of all-cause and 15 cancers (men: HR = 1.85, 1.91; women: HR = 1.44, 1.49) and accelerated time-to-cancer occurrence (men: 6.5 and 7.1 years and women: 5.6 and 6.3 years, respectively), compared to high vegetables and fruit with low processed meat intake. Less pronounced and less consistent associations were observed for whole grains and fiber and for red meat. The findings provide initial evidence toward refining existing cancer prevention recommendations to optimize the intake and combination of foods in the general adult population.

Keywords: cancer prevention; fiber; healthy eating; processed meat; red meat; vegetables and fruit; whole grains.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alberta / epidemiology
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Dietary Fiber / analysis*
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Meat Products / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Red Meat / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Vegetables*
  • Whole Grains*


  • Dietary Fiber