Introduction

EPIC (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) was initiated in 1992 and is the largest detailed study of diet and health ever undertaken. It involves over 500,000 people in 10 European countries (see EPIC-Europe). It is coordinated by the World Health Organization and supported by the European Union and national funding agencies.

EPIC-Oxford is one of two EPIC cohorts in the UK, the other being EPIC-Norfolk. (A “cohort” is a large group of people who have joined a study and whose health is being followed.) The EPIC-Oxford cohort was recruited between 1993 and 1999. The strategy for establishing the EPIC-Oxford cohort was to recruit participants with a wide range of diets by targeting vegetarians as well as participants from the general UK population. As such EPIC-Oxford is of great scientific value to the EPIC study as a whole, because the diets of vegetarians, and especially vegans, differ substantially from those of meat-eaters and this range in diets makes it easier to detect relationships between nutrition and health.

By studying very many people in different countries with differing diets, and by using carefully designed and tested questionnaires, EPIC should produce more specific information than previous studies about the effects of diet on long-term health.

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