Healthy plant-based diets may reduce cancer risk in middle-aged women

The study found that a healthy plant-based diet could reduce the risk of breast cancer by 14%.

Research shows diet quality is important in preventing breast cancer

There is some evidence that the foods we eat can affect our likelihood of developing cancer, but it’s not always clear which foods or eating habits are most effective in reducing cancer risk. The overall quality or safety of a person’s food may be crucial, according to the results of a recent study.

A healthy plant-based diet was found to be associated with a 14% lower risk of breast cancer, while an unhealthy plant-based diet was associated with a 20% higher risk, according to the study, based based on data from more than 65,000 postmenopausal women. women who have been followed for more than two decades. Across all breast cancer subtypes, the results were similar.

“These findings highlight that increasing the consumption of healthy plant foods and decreasing the consumption of less healthy plant foods and animal foods may help prevent all types of breast cancer.” said Sanam Shah, a doctoral student at the Center for Epidemiology and Population Research. Health at Paris-Saclay University, Inserm, Gustave Roussy, France, lead author of the study. Shah presented the findings at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE, the American Society for Nutrition’s flagship annual meeting held June 14-16.

Many dietary patterns, including the Western diet, the Mediterranean diet, and vegetarian diets, have been the focus of previous cancer risk research. Although some studies claim that diets with little or no meat consumption are beneficial, the evidence is rather conflicting. In the new study, the researchers focused on differentiating between plant-based foods that were classified as less healthy, such as fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, sugary drinks and desserts, and healthy plant-based foods, such as whole grains. , fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils and tea or coffee.

“What’s different about our study is that we were able to disentangle the effects of plant food quality, which hasn’t been the focus of previous studies of other diets,” Shah said. “In scoring healthy, unhealthy and animal-based foods, we thoroughly analyzed dietary intake considering the ‘healthiness’ of food groups.”

The researchers analyzed data from 65,574 postmenopausal women living in France who completed food intake questionnaires in 1993 and 2005 and were followed for an average of 21 years. During the study, 3,968 study participants were diagnosed with breast cancer. Comparing breast cancer rates among women with different dietary quality revealed significant differences in cancer risk between those with healthy and unhealthy diets.

The researchers used 18 food groups to categorize the degree to which participants adhered to a plant-based diet versus an animal-based diet and ate healthy versus less healthy foods. Shah noted that a plant-based diet does not equate to a vegan or vegetarian diet, but rather describes a general emphasis on plant-based foods over animal-based foods.

Although the results suggest that choosing healthy plant-based foods is likely helpful for cancer prevention, Shah noted that more research is needed to assess the links between diet and cancer risk in various populations. , especially to determine causation.


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