(AP) – The first attempt has shown that pruning of dietary fats and the consumption of more fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a woman dying from breast cancer.
The results are noticeable because they come from a rigorous test that included 49,000 women in two decades and not from other studies that try to draw health conclusions from observations about how people eat.
Healthy women who have altered their diet for at least eight years and have developed breast cancer later, had a 21% lower risk of dying compared to others who continued to consume as usual.
However, the risk of initiation was low and the effect of diet was not high, so it was necessary to see the difference between the groups for 20 years. The change in diet did not reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, which was the main goal of the study.
Nevertheless, doctors say that the results show how women can improve their chances of survival.
"Patients want things that they can do," said Dr. Jennifer Ligibel of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "It really shows that changing your diet, weight loss, physical exercise can actually treat you."
In a study led by dr. Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center did not play any role. On Wednesday, he gave results at a telephone press conference organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology prior to his annual meeting at the end of this month.
"We need to take this very seriously" because of the quality of the study, said dr. Lidia Schapira, a breast cancer expert at Stanford University and a representative of the oncology society. "What are we eating things."
The results come from a women's health initiative, a large federally funded study that has previously reversed long-standing hormonal therapy for menopausal symptoms.
In the nineties, the nutritional part of the study included 48,835 women aged 50-79 years without breast cancer. At the beginning, they received a third of their calories from fat. One group was regularly consulted and told to limit fat to 20% of calories and enjoy more vegetables, fruits and grains. The rest of us continued the usual eating habits.
A group with a low fat target missed the target, but after one year they reduced the intake of fats to 24%, and after about eight years, about 30% – still lower than where they started. The fat content in the comparator group remained roughly identical.
The study showed that fewer fatalities were found among women in the low-fat group due to all the causes that later developed breast cancer. Now, after 20 years, there is also a difference in death due to this disease. However, only 383 women died of breast cancer, so the benefit was absolutely low in absolute terms.
Has it helped pruning fat or increasing vegetables, fruits and grains?
"Nutrition is complicated. If someone enjoys more food, there is less," and it is difficult to say what kind of change he is doing, Ligibel said. Even eating too much starchy foods is not good, and researchers now know that the type of fat is important and that some fats, such as olive oil, are better than others.
"Our look at the diet has evolved since the design of this study," she said.
Ligibel leads the study to determine whether weight loss improves the survival of women with breast cancer at an early stage. Chlebowski works on another study to determine whether women who are obese or who have other health risks benefit from the pruning of dietary fats. The results of this study show that they could.