The risk of diverticular disease could be reduced by eating a meat-free diet, research has indicated.
Scientists at Oxford University found that vegetarians were a third less likely to suffer from the common bowel disorder, which is believed to be caused by eating too little fibre.
The study followed 47,033 British adults, with 15,459 of them vegetarian.
The findings showed that 812 participants were suffering from diverticular disease after an average follow-up of 11.6 years.
But vegetarians had a 30% lower risk of the condition compared with those who ate meat or fish.
The amount of meat consumed by participants did not affect their likelihood of developing the disease, but the findings suggest that eating more fibre could lower the risk.
The researchers, led by Dr Francesca Crowe from the university’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit, said eating meat may alter the metabolism of bacteria in the colon. This weakens the colon wall and increases the risk of diverticular disease.
The study found that the potential protective benefits of a vegetarian diet could be seen within a short time.