Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Low-fat diet helps reduce risk of dying from breast cancer, study finds

May 15, 2019, 5:17 PM EDT
By Erika Edwards

Eating a low-fat, plant-based diet could help significantly lower a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer, and the key appears to be changing eating habits before tumors have a chance to develop, according to a study released Wednesday.

The new findings are from a long-term analysis of the federally funded Women's Health Initiative, and included data on more than 48,000 postmenopausal women across the U.S.When the WHI study began in 1993, the women were in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and had never been diagnosed with breast cancer.


The women were tracked for 20 years, through 2013. Researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center who analyzed the data found that women who stuck to the low-fat, plant-based diet had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer.


The new study did not find a significant drop in breast cancer cases overall, although it's unclear why. It's too soon to say that a low-fat, plant-based diet does not protect a women from developing breast cancer, experts note.

"It could be that we need more follow-up, or that the effect on cases would have been stronger if the diet was continued for a longer period of time," said Dr. Neil Iyengar, who studies the relationship between diet and cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He was not involved in the new research.


Researchers took a close look at the women's metabolic risk factors, such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. The more metabolic risk factors a women has, the higher her risk for developing cancer.


Women in the study were told to consume no more than 20 percent of daily calories from fat. Not many were able to achieve that, but it didn't matter. Benefits were significant even if women were only able to reduce fat intake to 24.5 percent of their daily calories.


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