Women who followed a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains had a lower risk of dying from breast cancer than those on a higher-fat diet, according to results of a major study released Wednesday. 19659003] The results from the latest analysis of the federally funded Women's Health Initiative provide the first randomized clinical trial evidence that the diet can reduce postmenopausal women's risk of dying from breast cancer, researchers said. Past observations, which do not measure cause and effect, have had inconsistent findings.
The results are exciting and empowering for the patient, "said Elisa Port, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York. was not involved in the study. "This is a wake-up call for women – there's something they can do, rather than just waiting for the shoe to drop."
The trial involved more than 48,000 women who did not have breast cancer when they enrolled in the study and was conducted at 40 centers across the United States. From 1993 to 1998, the women were randomly assigned either to follow their usual diet, in which fat accounts for 32 percent of daily calories on average, or to reduce fat intake to 20 percent of calories while consuming daily vegetables, fruits and grains.
The dietary intervention group fell short of the goal; they managed to reduce their fat consumption to about 24.5 percent, and then "drifted up to about 29 percent," according to lead study author Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Members of the group lost 3 percent of their body weight on average. Still, the women in this group who developed breast cancer had a lower risk of death than the women developed the disease and followed their regular diets
Chlebowski said the study showed that women could improve their health by making modest changes in what and how much they eat. "This is a diet moderation. It's not like eating twigs and branches, "he said. "It's what people have been eating, say, 20 years ago, before you could pick up 900 calories in one candy bar."
The dietary intervention lasted for 8.5 years and included several sessions with nutritionists. The latest analysis is a follow-up of nearly 20 years.
Experts on breast cancer generally praised the study but expressed some reservations.
For one thing, the study was designed to determine whether a low-fat diet could reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place, not whether it provided a mortality benefit. lower-fat diet did not result in a reduced risk for developing breast cancer.
The breast cancer experts also noted that the mortality benefit took nearly 20 years to emerge, and some said that it was not clear which dietary component was responsible for the benefit – the reduced fat or the additional fruits, vegetables and grains. 19659013] The study authors have said that the diet-modification group used a diet similar to one called DASH – for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – which is designed to prevent or treat high blood pressure
but I would not rely on it to recommend a specific diet to a patient, given that people react differently to different diets depending on their biology, said Neil Iyengar, an oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "I tell patients if they eat more plant-based food, less red meat, lower alcohol and maintain a healthy weight, they may have a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence or death."
The study did not look at the effect of diet on the risk of breast cancer recurrence. A separate study is looking at whether weight loss, achieved through reducing calories and increasing physical activity, leads to a reduction in the risk of recurrence. The study, called the Breast Cancer Weight Loss Study (BWEL), is being led by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The study comes as more evidence is accumulating about the relationship between being overweight or obese and a number of cancers. Being obese and overweight – has been associated in recent years with an increased risk of getting at least 13 types of cancer, including stomach, pancreas, colorectal and liver malignancies, as well as postmenopausal breast cancer
The study will be presented in the coming weeks at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago