Fiber is usually recommended for its digestive health benefits, but a new study suggests that eating a high fiber diet can also help prevent breast cancer.
It is recommended that Americans get anywhere from 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, depending on their age and sex, but many people do not eat the recommended amount. Fiber has many health benefits, particularly for digestion. It also can help prevent obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Now, a new study from Harvard University researchers is suggesting that fiber can help prevent breast cancer too.
In the study, researchers tracked 44,000 women over a 20-year period. The women were surveyed about the diets they ate in high school. Every four years during the time of the study, the women completed questionnaires about their current diet.
The researchers found that the women who ate high-fiber diets as teenagers were less likely to develop breast cancer later in life.
Women who ate around 28 grams of fiber per day as teenagers were found to have 24% less chance of developing breast cancer before menopause compared to women who only ate around 14 grams of fiber.
As well, women who ate high-fiber diets in their 20s and 30s were between 12-19% less likely to develop breast cancer. For every 10 grams of fiber eaten daily, there was a 13% lowered risk of developing breast cancer.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is the first study to link fiber intake with breast cancer rates. The results indicate that eating a high-fiber diet could be particularly important for women who want to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
“The results of this study emphasize the role of an early life high-fiber diet on prevention of breast cancer in later life,” said lead study author Dr. Maryam Farvid.
High-fiber foods include many different fruits, vegetables, and legumes, including apples, pears, bananas, peas, broccoli, lentils, and beans. As well, whole grains are high in fiber, making pasta and bread good sources of fiber.
It is not known why fiber would help prevent breast cancer. One theory is that a high-fiber diet may reduce circulating estrogen levels. However, more research will have to be done to determine what exactly is occurring.
According to Dr. Farvid, eating more fruits and vegetables is an easy way to reduce your risk of cancer. She said the study is not only the first one to find this link, but also reveals one of the few preventative measures that women can take to avoid pre-menopause breast cancer.
While the study’s findings may have many implications for cancer prevention, researchers say that more studies will be needed to confirm the results.
However, the study is only one of many reasons why eating high-fiber diets are important for health. In response to this study, some medical professionals have stated that fiber has many general health benefits and that the focus shouldn’t be solely on breast cancer.
People with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease may all benefit from increased fiber intake.
Source for Today’s Article:
Farvid, M., et al., “Dietary fiber intake in young adults and breast cancer risk,” Pediatrics, published online February 1, 2016; doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1226.