Did you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables growing up? If you did,, then it’s time to thank your parents because research has shown that this could decrease your chances of developing breast cancer. A comprehensive survey conducted by a group of researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that women who ate more dietary fiber during their adolescent years actually had a much lower risk of developing the disease. Here’s hoping you didn’t feed your broccoli to the dog when no one was looking!
Why This Study Is Groundbreaking
While studies in the past have tried to examine the link between dietary fiber intake and breast cancer risk, almost all of them showed up as inconclusive. However, the main difference between the Harvard T.H. Chan study and the previous ones was the time period examine. Past studies only looked at current intake of fiber and their effect on lowering breast cancer. However, the newest study went further back and studied the patterns of dietary fiber consumption when participants were in their adolescent and young adult years. The discovery of this possible cause of breast cancer is important because this is something we actually have control over. While other factors like genetic predisposition towards the disease are out of our hands, diet is entirely up to us. We can take steps towards ensuring young girls eat more fiber and subsequently lower their risk of developing breast cancer.
How Was This Study Conducted?
The researchers studied the responses submitted by 90,534 women who had taken part in the Nurses’ Health Study II. This study was a long-running survey which attempted to look into various facets of a woman’s lifestyle that could lead to a high risk for breast cancer. These women, aged between 27-44 at the time of the survey, filled out detailed questionnaires that included questions about the kind of food they were eating. Every four years, there was a follow-up survey to determine whether any changes had been made in their diets. 1998 was the year when they filled out what proved to be the most crucial questionnaire of the study: how much fiber they ate in high school. The end results of the survey were then adjusted according to each woman’s family history of breast cancer, their BMI, weight gain over the years, their race and many other factors. This was done so the link between diet and breast cancer could be clearly studied without any other variable factors affecting the results.
The Results Of The Survey
Among the women who ate more fiber during their early adulthood, their risk for developing breast cancer was about 12-19% lower. Women who ate more dietary fiber during their adolescent years had a 16% lower chance of developing breast cancer at any stage of their life and a 24% lower chance for developing breast cancer before menopause. Fiber was clearly a strong factor in lower breast cancer risk because each additional 10 grams of fiber lowered breast cancer risk by as much as 13%. It also appeared that the kind of fiber women ate mattered. fiber coming from fruits and vegetables proved to be more effective at reducing breast cancer risk than any other type of fiber.
Researchers believe that the inverse relationship between fiber intake and breast cancer risk stems from the ability of fiber to reduce high estrogen levels. Exposure to carcinogens and anti-carcinogens during adolescent years can have a long-term impact on the health of breast tissue. This is why higher fiber intake during young adult years is so crucial to prevent breast cancer from developing.
How To Increase Your Fiber Intake
The first step to improving your fiber intake is to see how many foods you eat can be replaced with high-fiber alternatives. For example, you can substitute white bread with whole wheat bread, white rice with brown rice and pasta with whole wheat pasta. You can also start eating more foods that are known for their high fiber content. One cup of lentils, for example, has 15.6 grams of fiber while 1 cup of split peas has 16.3 grams. You can also make an effort to eat at least 2 servings of fruit a day and a minimum of 3 servings of vegetables. An overall healthy diet will increase your fiber intake and could lower your risk for breast cancer.