Foods high in fibre – like vegetables and fruits – may decrease the risk of breast cancer in teenage girls and young women later in life, according to a new study.
Over the 20-year-study, the researchers observed that women who consumed fibre-rich foods earlier in adulthood were twelve to nineteen percent less likely to develop breast cancer, compared with women who did not consume much fibre when they were younger.
Moreover, women who consumed foods high in fibre as teenagers, were twenty-four percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause, compared with women who consumed very little fibre during their teenage years, the researchers said.
Maryam Farvid, lead author of the study and a scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that this study sheds light on the importance of diet early in life and its effects of a person’s health in the long-run. When it comes to breast cancer prevention, women can protect themselves by increasing the amount of fibre intake earlier in life, she noted.
In the new study – published Monday (Feb. 1) in the journal Pediatrics – the researchers analysed data on the diet of about 90,500 women ages 27 to 44; they then followed them for twenty years. The women were also asked about their diets during high school. About 2,833 women developed breast cancer over the course of the study, according to the researchers.
The results showed that the more fibre-rich foods the women consumed, the lower their likelihood of developing cancer was. Farvid said that each additional ten grams of fibre per day during adolescence – which would equate to half a cup of cooked kidney beans with half a cup of wholegrain pasta, or to about two slices of whole wheat bread and an apple – lowered the risk of breast cancer by fourteen percent.
Based on the findings, the recommended daily fibre intake – of 25 to 30 grams – earlier in life could substantially decrease the risk of breast cancer in women later on.
It is important to note that the study shows an association between high fibre intake and lower risk of breast cancer, and not a cause-and-effect relationship.
Dr. Walter Willett, co-author of the study and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that during childhood and adolescence, breast tissue is highly influenced by anti-carcinogens and carcinogens. The new findings prove that what people consume early in file is an important factor in future cancer risk, Dr. Willett explained.
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