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Research Spotlight:
Plant-Based Diet Can Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

Whole Fruits Vegs on a Plate The research is pretty clear that staying a healthy weight lowers postmenopausal women’s risk of breast cancer. Now a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that regularly eating a diet high in the foods that help you stay at that healthy weight – fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods – may by itself lower the risk of breast cancer, particularly for tumors that are not fueled by hormones. These breast cancers are less common, but more challenging to treat.

Almost 100,000 women answered questionnaires about what they ate, along with genetic and other risk factors. Five dietary patterns emerged:

  1. plant based: lots of fruits and vegetables
  2. high-protein, high-fat: lots of meat, eggs, butter, and fried foods
  3. high-carbohydrate: lots of pasta, bread, and convenience foods
  4. ethnic: lots of legumes, soy-based foods, rice, and dark green leafy vegetables
  5. salad and wine: high in lettuce with low-fat dressing, fish, wine, coffee and tea

After 14 years, researchers determined that women who ate primarily a plant-based diet had a 15 percent lower risk compared to those who least ate this type of diet. Drinking alcohol, a risk factor for breast cancer, slightly lowered the protective effect of the diet.

Many components of a plant-based diet could reduce breast cancer risk, the authors write. Plant foods’ fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals all have shown cancer-fighting properties.

Along with staying a healthy weight, AICR has found that physical activity and breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk; drinking alcohol increases risk.

Healthy Options in Restaurants Still Hard to Find

Despite increased public awareness of the link between a healthy diet and lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and despite the fact that since last year chain restaurants have been required to post nutrition information, there has been little to no change in healthier entrée options for adults and kids, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For the study, researchers collected the amount of calories and sodium in entrées from 213 restaurants. The nutrition information was provided from the restaurants. One year later the researchers collected the same nutrition information from the same restaurants’ entrée options. Overall, the average calories and sodium stayed about the same after a year (though fast food entrées for kids decreased by 40 calories on average).

The study only looked at entrees and longer-term studies are needed, noted the authors, yet this finding shows that it will take more than a federal law for restaurants to offer more healthier choices to their menus.

 

Published on March 7, 2014

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