Fruits and Vegetables Significantly Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

A few days ago I posted an article by Dr. David Katz with the provocative title “Do Multivitamins Cause Breast Cancer?

Now let’s give you some better news!

A new study addressing patterns of diet and breast cancer has found that women whose diets are primarily plant-based, consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables, have significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer, while women who consume a diet high in wine, salad and low-fat dressing may have increased risk.

The study was led by researchers from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and Columbia University who worked with information obtained from thousands of women to identify a correlation between dietary patterns and breast cancer.

While a lowered risk for breast cancer was observed in the plant-based diet group as a whole, of particular note were the women who reported consuming the highest amounts of fruits and vegetables. The researchers found this group to be 35 percent less likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer than those who reported eating the fewest fruits and vegetables.

“The finding that women who are at high risk for ER- breast cancer can reduce their risk by consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is very encouraging. It provides a simple and important preventative measure for women to take, and one likely to reduce the risk of other major chronic diseases as well,” said Pamela Horn-Ross, Ph.D., research scientist at CPIC.

“The diet does not have to be vegetarian to make a difference,” Horn-Ross noted. “What we found is that the more fruits and vegetables consumed in the overall diet, the greater the benefit.” But she noted that even those consuming the greatest amounts of fruits and vegetables also consumed meat, chicken, fish, and grain-based foods to some degree.

The researchers observed that women who consumed larger amounts of salad, fish, wine, and coffee or tea had an increased risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. “While alcohol consumption accounts for some of this increased risk, it does not explain it entirely,” said Lilli Link, MD, MS, a nutrition specialist in private practice in New York, formerly affiliated with Columbia University.

“Women who consume two or more glasses of wine (or any alcoholic beverage) a day while also taking hormone therapy are at especially high risk of breast cancer, so concurrent use of hormone therapy among women consuming this dietary pattern may account for some of the risk,” Link said. “However, at this time, we don’t know what other factors may be involved.”

Published in the Oct. 9, 2013 online version of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study, “Dietary patterns and breast cancer risk in the California Teachers Study,” included 91,779 women from a large, diverse group that consists of active and retired teachers and school administrators in California. The participants completed a comprehensive questionnaire in 1995 regarding health status, dietary habits and lifestyle information, and were followed for 14 years thereafter.

The five major dietary patterns identified in the study included the plant-based diet consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables; a diet high in protein and fat, with meat, eggs, fried foods and high-fat condiments such as butter and mayonnaise; a diet high in convenience foods, pasta and bread products; a diet high in legumes, soy foods, rice and dark leafy vegetables; and the “salad and wine” diet, high in salads, low-fat dressing, fish, wine, and coffee and tea.

Over the 14-year period, 4,140 of the participants were diagnosed with breast cancer. The diets high in carbohydrates, in protein and fat, and in legumes and soy foods neither reduced nor increased breast cancer risk.

bowlpeppersA number of reasons might explain why a plant-based diet might reduce breast cancer risk, the researchers suggested. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which may lower breast cancer risk by reducing the concentration of estrogen in the body and keeping glucose and insulin levels stable. Fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, which have been shown to inhibit growth of breast cancer cells.

The authors noted that a major strength of this study is its basis in a large, diverse group with dietary data collected prior to breast cancer diagnosis and based on a widely-used and validated food frequency questionnaire. Certain limitations were noted as well, including possible changes to dietary patterns over time and lack of distinction between cooked and raw vegetables.

As you, my readers, know, Juice Plus+ contains the nutritional essence of many fruits, berries and vegetables, and the Juice Plus+ Complete ‘sister product’ extends the reach of health-giving food products in the form of a powdered drink mix. These products were the subject of a study at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX conducted a study on the effect of giving Juice Plus+ capsules and Complete to ovarian cancer survivors. The study was published in the March 2012 issue of the Gynecologic Oncology Journal. You can watch a webinar presentation by the lead researcher of this study Dr. Lovell Jones.