- Adopting a balanced plant-based lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women, as evidenced by a 20-year-long French study involving over 65,000 women.
- The key to a healthy plant-based diet lies in consuming whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea or coffee in generous quantities. Unhealthy plant-based options, like sugary fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, sweet beverages, and desserts can increase the risk of breast cancer.
- While increasing the intake of wholesome plant-based foods and reducing the consumption of less healthy ones could potentially prevent different types of breast cancer, not all plant-based diets are created equal, hence the need to make conscious healthier choices.
- People can enjoy a moderate intake of red meat and poultry without significantly affecting the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet on breast cancer risk.
- The fiber content in wholesome plant-based foods may lower cancer risk due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. However, the findings are more applicable to postmenopausal women, with further research required for younger categories.
A recent study carried out in France has discovered that post-menopausal women maintaining a balanced plant-based lifestyle may considerably lower their risk of developing breast cancer. After closely observing over 65,000 women for a span of 20 years, it was revealed that those who were on a wholesome, mostly plant-based diet saw a 14% decline in their risk for all forms of breast cancer.
Characteristics of a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
The key factor in this finding lies in the word ‘healthy’. The decrease in risk was noticed among women who incorporated a significant quantity of whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, vegetable oils, and tea or coffee into their diet. A moderate intake of red meat and poultry did not affect these results significantly.
On the other hand, those who relied heavily on potentially unhealthy plant-based choices, such as sugary fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, sweet beverages, and desserts, experienced a 20% rise in breast cancer risk. This highlights the difference between merely consuming plant-based foods and making health-conscious choices.
The Correlation Between Plant-Based Foods and Breast Cancer
Lead investigator Sanam Shah articulated how increasing the intake of wholesome plant-based foods, and simultaneously reducing the consumption of less healthy plant options, might assist in preventing all types of breast cancer. But she emphasized the requirement of prudence in choosing the right type of plant-based diet, as not all are equally beneficial.
The research did not center on women who completely refrained from meat. Rather, it concentrated on those who still included a moderate amount of meat and poultry, while primarily sustaining on plant-based foods.
The study also explored the variances in the impact of healthier and less healthy plant foods on breast cancer risk, a perspective that hasn’t been the focal point of earlier investigations.
Determining the Statistics
For this particular study, participants, averaging at the age of 53, completed nutritional questionnaires in 1993 and later in 2005. They were classified according to their dietary habits – either predominantly animal-based or majorly plant-based. Over the average tracking period of about 21 years, close to 4,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
The study revealed that those who favored healthier plant-based foods showed a clear decline in breast cancer risk, while those who opted for less healthy plant-based diets witnessed a significant increase.
How Does a Healthy Plant-Based Diet Lower Cancer Risk?
Although further research is required, one theory is that the high fiber content in healthier plant-based diets could lower cancer risk through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It’s also important to note that the findings might not necessarily apply to younger women due to differences between premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers in regards to the development of breast cancer.
Although further research will be required, Lona Sandon, a nutrition specialist based in Dallas, agreed. Sandon points out the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy plant-based diet largely lies in the method of processing or preparation. The more a food item is processed, the more its quality diminishes due to changes in its nutrients or added ingredients.
According to Sandon, there is no apparent downside to choosing minimally processed plant-based foods when it comes to cancer risk. However, she also advised realism in expectations. For instance, if an individual waits until they are in their mid-50s, damaged or cancer cells may have already begun to progress, leading to a smaller benefit compared to if they had been maintaining a healthy plant-based lifestyle since their 20s.
Find more regarding plant-based diets and their impact on cancer at the Cleveland Clinic.
Sources: Interaction with Sanam Shah, research lead of the study. Special thanks to Lona Sandon for contributing indirectly to this article.