Women aged over 50 could reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by eating smaller portions of meat and having one extra serving of fruit and vegetables a day, the trial has revealed.
The research, by the Women’s Health Intitative led by Dr Rowan Chlebowksi, from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, tracked 48,835 postmenopausal women age 50 to 79 with no previous history of breast cancer for an average of 20 years, during which 3,374 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed.
Half of the participants were asked to follow a typical diet, where fat accounted for around a third of their daily calories.
The remainder were asked to cut fat consumption and to include at least one serving of a vegetable, fruit, and grain in their daily diet.
Most women in the balanced, low-fat diet group reduced daily fat consumption to 25 per cent or less, while increasing their intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Overall, the risk of early death was 15 per cent lower. But the chance of premature death from breast cancer fell by 21 per cent.
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Though, the women in the low-fat diet group lost around 3 per cent of their body weight, study authors didn’t believe the findings could be explained by weight loss. Instead they suggested that healthy eating reduced harmful chronic inflammation.
Commenting on the findings, which are to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, Dr Chlebowski, from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, said: “Ours is the first randomised, controlled trial to prove that a healthy diet can reduce the risk of death from breast cancer. The balanced diet we designed is one of moderation, and after nearly 20 years of follow-up, the health benefits are still accruing.”
The research follows a further study, revealed earlier this month, which suggested a diet rich in coffee, fruit and vegetables could help protect women against breast cancer.
Presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, the research found that a diet full of phenolic acids provides a protective effect on the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.
Phenolic acids are found in coffee, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Back in March it was also revealed that a bottle of wine increases a woman’s cancer risk by as much as smoking 10 cigarettes a week.
For men, one bottle has the equivalent risk of smoking five cigarettes each week.
A further study last year revealed that eating bacon and sausages could increase breast cancer risk by as much as 9%.
Those findings support previous research by the World Health Organisation linking the consumption of processed meats with higher cancer incidence rates.