Plant-Based Diets Keep Breast Cancer at the Bay
The results of this study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. (2)
The risk of developing any type of breast cancer dropped by an average of 14% in people who consumed a healthy plant-based diet.
But what does healthy imply here?
Healthy here indicates a diet with a significant portion of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils and tea or coffee and occasionally red meat and poultry. When this pattern of diet was followed, the rate of incidence of breast cancer risk fell significantly.
But the diet that we currently practice is deemed relatively unhealthy. Their plant-based diet mostly includes a heavy reliance on sugary fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages and/or desserts. Here, the risk of developing breast cancer rises by about 20%.
What distinguishes the difference between a healthy plant-based food and an unhealthy plant-based food is largely the processing or preparation method. In general, the more processing, the more diminished quality due to changes in nutrients or added ingredients.
For the study, the French female participants, with an average age of 53, completed nutritional questionnaires in 1993 and again in 2005.
The women were classified as following either a mostly animal-based diet or a diet that’s mostly plant-based.
Over an average tracking period of about 21 years, nearly 4,000 women developed breast cancer.
Plant-Based Diet and Breast Cancer Incidence
It is said that increasing the consumption of healthy plant foods, and decreasing the consumption of less healthy plant foods, might help to prevent all types of breast cancer. But beware “not all plant-based diets are equally healthy.”
In general, “diets excluding meat generally have a positive health image.”
The study team found that those who tended to eat the healthiest plant-based foods faced a notably lower breast cancer risk, whereas those who consumed the least healthy plant-based diets saw their risk rise considerably.
The high fiber content of healthier plant-based diets “may lower cancer risk via their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.”
More research should be conducted to understand the link between healthy plant-based diets and breast cancer risk.
Also, the study should be conducted to understand if the same results apply to younger women. That’s because “differences exist between premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers in regard to the development of breast cancer.”
Still, adopting a healthy plant-based diet is almost always a win-win, particularly for those who start young.
Keeping all the details in mind, there does not appear to be a downside to choosing minimally processed plant-based foods for anyone when it comes to cancer risk.
However, the expectations should be realistic. If one wait until 55 years to start plant-based diet, damaged or cancer cells might already have started to progress. So, the rate of risk-lowering is likely to be much less, compared with someone who has been following a healthy plant-based diet since their 20s.