The fight against breast cancer in women seems to be getting significant boosts by the day as new study shows that eating more fibre could significantly help to reduce the risk, especially if you are a teenager.
This is the result of a new study, which was published on Monday in the journal Paediatrics. The publication concludes that eating lots of fibre-rich foods during high school years may significantly lower the risk of a woman developing breast cancer.
The findings, per NPR, are based on a long-term study of 44,000 women who were surveyed about their eating habits while in high school. The women also completed detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits every four years.
The researchers discovered that women who consumed high levels of fibre (28 grams per day on average) had 24 percent lower risk of developing cancer before they attain menopause compared to those who ate low levels of fibre-rich foods (14 grams per day on average). The report added that for women on the high-fibre diet, the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer was also reduced by 16 percent, which is quite encouraging.
Over the years, fibre-rich diets have been known to not only keep us healthy, but also prevent constipation, while keeping the bowel moving by making stools bulkier and absorbing water. Previous studies have also shown that dietary fibre can protect against colorectal cancer and may also reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Further evidence has also suggested that fibre-rich diets can also help in terms of weight management.
Yet, Monday’s publication provides some evidence of another potential benefit of taking fibre-rich diets.
“This is a really important study … [suggesting] that the more fiber you eat during your high school years, the lower your risk is in developing breast cancer,” says Kimberly Blackwell, a breast cancer specialist at the Duke Cancer Center.
In a commentary accompanying the study in Paediatrics, Blackwell writes, “There is longstanding evidence that dietary fibers may reduce circulating estrogen levels.” And this may help explain the reduced risk of breast cancer.
The writers point to other possible explanations, like the possibility of fibre-rich diets helping to lower the risk of breast cancer through improving insulin sensitivity, due to the fact that it slows down the absorption of sugars and help keep blood sugar levels more stable.
Maryam Farvid, a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health said that the influence of fibre on cancer risk may be time-sensitive. Adolescence is “a period when breast cancer risk factors appear to be particularly important,” she said.
However, this study is limited because it relied on women who had to recall what they ate while at high school. With most of them at their 30s and 40s when they were asked to recall what they ate at high school, the possibility not being able to have accurate memories cannot be ruled out.
“The recollection of dietary habits more than a decade earlier must be questioned,” writes Blackwell. On the other hand, she says, “people’s dietary habits don’t really change a lot … In general, what you eat as a teenager is really formative as to what you eat later in life.”