New research indicates that a low-fat diet high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables could reduce breast cancer mortality. The study was conducted by researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and will be presented in June at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.
For 8.5 years, 49,000 postmenopausal women taking part in the long-term Women’s Health Initiative study tracked what they ate. Half the group kept their normal diets, while the other half followed a low-fat diet designed to reduce caloric intake and increase fruit, vegetable, and whole grain consumption. While rates of breast cancer diagnosis were equivalent between the two groups, those who followed the experimental diet were 21 percent less likely to die from breast cancer.
Many outlets reporting the study’s findings interviewed MSK’s Dr. Neil Iyengar, whose research focuses on diet, exercise, and cancer. In a Time article, he said that this is the first prospective randomized control trial showing the impact of diet on breast cancer mortality, and speculated that the diet may prevent tumor growth even if it doesn’t prevent initial tumor occurrence. In The Washington Post, he noted that while this study “adds more evidence on the impact of diet,” people respond to diets differently. He doesn’t endorse one diet for all patients, but he does recommend they decrease red meat and alcohol consumption, increase plant-based items, and maintain a healthy weight.