October is breast cancer month. While COVID-19 is grabbing most of the headlines, we must not forget the many other lifestyle diseases, such as breast cancer that place our longevity at risk. While there are many reasons for a cancer diagnosis, a diet rich in fiber and anti-oxidants will certainly help reduce your risk.
Diet and poor lifestyle choices
Roughly 1 in 28 women will have cancer in their lifetime. Furthermore, one in eight women living in an urban area is likely to develop breast cancer. Factors such as genetics, late detection, unhealthy diets, and poor lifestyle choices all increase the risks of breast cancer.
In addition, women in low-income households may not have access to adequate cancer screening facilities. Regular cancer screening, coupled with a healthy diet, may minimise the development of cancerous cells. Hence the need for a healthy and balanced diet.
Limit food with saturated fats
Omy Naidoo, RD, founder and dietician at Newtricion Wellness explains; “Foods such as butter, dairy products, and red meat contain saturated fats. You should limit these with foods high in sugar, and processed foods, because they do not contain sufficient fiber. Fiber is scientifically proven to reduce oestrogen production in the body.”
The important role of fiber in your diet
Eating a diet high in fiber (which occurs naturally in vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit) may protect women against breast cancer. This is according to one of the largest analyses of the literature published in the advance issue of Annals of Oncology. The research was funded by the World Cancer Research Fund as part of AICR/WCRF’s Continuous Update Project (CUP) (pdf), an ongoing review of cancer prevention research.
Consume fiber daily
The study found that for every 10 grams of fiber consumed daily – slightly less than a cup of beans – the risk of breast cancer was 5 percent lower. Consuming 20 grams of fiber daily would mean a 10 percent lower risk, and so on.
When comparing women who ate the most fiber to those who ate the least, women who consumed the highest amounts of fiber had a 7 percent lower risk of breast cancer.
8 new studies confirm the role of fiber
For the analysis, researchers at Imperial College in the United Kingdom analyzed the 16 relevant population studies investigating breast cancer incidence and dietary fiber intake. This analysis builds on a 2007 and 2009 AICR/WCRF review of the literature, which concluded the evidence linking dietary fiber and breast cancer prevention was too limited or inconsistent to make a conclusion. Since 2007, 8 new studies on the topic have been published.
Fiber helps with weight control
There are several possible explanations as to how dietary fiber may prevent breast cancer. The authors of the study suggest that fiber reduces the amount of circulating estrogen. Fiber may also help with weight control, a known risk factor for postmenopausal cancer.
Fiber protects against colorectal cancer
In May 2011, AICR/WCRF’s latest CUP report concluded that there was convincing evidence that dietary fiber protects against colorectal cancer. The publication of this new analysis of breast cancer and fiber by independent researchers at Imperial College is part of an ongoing process that keeps AICR’s and WCRF’s cancer prevention advice current.
In the meantime, the AICR recommends taking a good look at your plate and making sure at least 2/3 of it is filled with plant foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans) and 1/3 or less with meat and/or dairy foods. This simple, visual approach is called AICR’s New American Plate.
Which diet is best?
According to Naidoo, one of the most studied dietary plans worldwide is the Mediterranean diet. This diet comprises foods that can lessen risks and help the body fight against cancerous cells. It consists of foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish as well as extra virgin olive oil.
Anti-inflammatory and high in fiber
“Mediterranean diet foods exert an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. A lot of the time, the cancer development process is due to oxidised damage. This means there is a low-grade inflammation that eventually ignites the cancer generation process or worsens it. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain a lot of fibre and polyphenols that are significant in the reduction of oestrogen levels. This plays a vital role in the cancer development process,” adds Naidoo.
The bottom line
While breast cancer is genetically inherited, poor dietary and lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol abuse are some of the leading contributing risk factors that people need to be cautious of in the development of breast cancer.
The Annals of Oncology analysis on fiber: You can read the abstract here.
The New American Plate: American Institute for Cancer Research: https://www.linkedin.com/in/omy-naidoo-5261b69a/?originalSubdomain=za