Women who lowered the fat in their diets eating healthier foods, have a lower risk of dying from breast cancer, new long-term research says.
The research took place in a federally funded clinical trial, with nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79. As a result the researchers found women who have reduced the fat in their diets to 25% have a 21% lower risk of death from breast cancer.
However the women with low-fat diets have a 15% lower risk of death from any cause after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Ours is the first randomized, controlled trial to prove that a healthy diet can reduce the risk of death from breast cancer,” lead study author Dr. Rowan Chlebowski said in a statement.
Results from the trial
The clinical trial was carried out by the Women’s Health Initiative. The research will be finally presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
From 1993 to 1998, 48,835 postmenopausal women with no history of breast cancer were targeted. They were divided into two groups: one in which fat accounted for 32% or more of their daily calories. The second with a goal of lowering fat to 20% or less and eating at least one serving of a vegetable, fruit and grain a day.
The women in the low-fat group were to keep their diets for 8½ years. Though most reduced their fat to 25% of their daily calories. As a result the group had an average 3% weight loss.
Researchers followed the women for a median of 19.6 years. Almost 3,400 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed from 1993 to 2013.
“This is a wake-up call for women – there’s something they can do, rather than just waiting for the shoe to drop,” Elisa Port, a doctor at Mount Sinai Health System in New York who was not involved in the study, told The Washington Post.
A diet is a must
Chlebowski stressed the importance of the dietary change, calling it one of “moderation.”
“It’s not like eating twigs and branches,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s what people were eating, say, 20 years ago, before you could pick up 900 calories in one candy bar.”
The study looked at total fat reduction in diets, rather than comparing the types of fat.
Some experts said that although the research is significant, it may not be clear if the benefit came only from lowering fat overall or from increasing fruit, vegetable and grain consumption.
“It is very difficult to disentangle the individual components,” JoAnn Manson, a study co-author, told NPR. “The trial was designed to test reduction in total fat.
“Now, there’s much more evidence, especially for preventing cardiovascular disease, the type of fat really matters,” she said.