People who consume a vegetarian diet are one-third less likely to get diverticular disease than meat eaters, finds a study of more than 47,000 health conscious British adults. About 15,000 of the study participants reported being vegetarian.

Diverticular disease is a common bowel disorder that affects the colon and is thought to be caused by not consuming enough fiber. Typical symptoms include painful abdominal cramps, bloating, wind, constipation and diarrhea.

The study also found that study participants with a relatively high intake of dietary fiber (around 25 grams a day) had a lower risk of being admitted to hospital with or dying from diverticular disease compared with those who consumed less than 14 grams of fiber a day.

These findings lend support to public health recommendations that encourage the eating foods high in fiber such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, the study researchers conclude.

1. Crowe FL, Appleby PN, Allen NE, Key TJ. Diet and risk of diverticular disease in Oxford cohort of European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC): prospective study of British vegetarians and non-vegetarians. BMJ 2011; 343: d4131. (open access)