How diet affects breast cancer risk and outcomes

October 20 2022

2 minutes to read


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Previous research has shown associations between nutrition and breast cancer.

For example, studies have shown that, for postmenopausal women, adherence to a Healthy vegetarian diet It has been linked to a 14% lower risk of breast cancer Diets that promote inflammation May increase the risk of breast cancer.

PC 1022

On the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Helio spoke with Adi BenitoAnd the MD, An integrative endocrinologist at Integrative Endocrinology at Princeton and senior medical advisor for the nonprofit Eating for Your Health, to learn more about the associations between diet and breast cancer.

Benito, who is board certified in diabetes, metabolism and endocrinology, discusses the links between breast cancer and diet, nutrition misconceptions in primary care providers and more.

Helio: Why is eating foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds so important after a breast cancer diagnosis?

Benito: Breast cancer is a condition of increased oxidative stress (inflammation). Anti-inflammatory compounds in nutrients, such as carotenoids, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, have been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, and mortality from breast cancer.

Helio: What specific foods and nutritional compounds are beneficial for people diagnosed with breast cancer?

Benito: Carotenoids, polyphenols, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

Carotenoids are bright red, yellow, and orange pigments in fruits and vegetables. Pumpkin, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, tangerines, winter squash, cantaloupe, mango, papaya, sweet potato, watermelon, guava, grapefruit, asparagus, red cabbage, red pepper, but also spinach, turnip, parsley and peas contain carotenoids.

Polyphenols are a large and diverse family of plant pigments, and are considered antioxidants. There is ongoing research on the anticancer activity of the polyphenol family.

Fiber is anti-inflammatory, improves the immune system function of the gut, and may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death.

Helio: What foods can Primary care physicians We recommend for help Preventing breast cancer in high-risk patients?

BenitoA vegetarian diet, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds (in particular, flaxseed), herbs and spices, legumes (beans and lentils), whole grains and, if possible, a diet containing marine sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Carotenoids, polyphenols, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Among the polyphenol compounds, flavonols have been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer in several studies. Flavonols are found in onions, leeks (and other alliums), kale, rosemary, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, berries, beans, apricots, and tea.

Helio: What are some common misconceptions among PCPs about nutrition?

Benito: It is likely that the role of nutrition in preventing breast cancer is underappreciated by many clinicians. In the field of obesity, ‘calories in calories out’ has been the approach to weight gain, but this model does not take into account metabolic adaptation.

Helio: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Benito: Breast cancer survivors and those at risk of developing breast cancer should strongly consider reducing/avoiding added sugars and a diet rich in regular carbohydrates, as they increase the risk of breast cancer. Adding high-fiber foods reduces this risk.

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