Reduced-Fat, High-Fiber Diet Lowered the Risk of Dying from Breast Cancer

Can diet affect the likelihood of dying from cancer? Well, according to a study released in May 2019, yes. This study, from the Women’s Health Initiative, found a connection between a reduced-fat diet and a lowered risk of dying from breast cancer. We wanted to talk about the study and its findings.

About the Study

This study was conducted at 40 centers around the U.S. and consisted of more than 48,000 women who didn’t have breast cancer when the study began in 1993. Between 1993 and 1998, the women were randomly given one of two diets: a typical diet, or a reduced-fat diet. In the “typical” diet, fat accounted for 32 percent of daily calories on average. In the reduced-fat diet, participants tried to decrease their fat intake to 20 percent of calories, and eat the daily recommended servings of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

The researchers followed the reduced-fat participants for 8.5 years, including a few appointments with a nutritionist. The latest findings come from following up after almost 20 years.

The Findings

While the reduced-fat group didn’t exactly meet their goal, they were able to reduce their fat intake to about 24.5 percent. Eventually, though, their fat intake rose back up to around 29 percent, according to lead study author Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The participants in this group also lost an average of 3 percent of their body weight. But even with the variation in reducing their fat intake, the women on a reduced-fat diet who developed breast cancer had a lower risk of death than women who followed their typical diet and developed breast cancer.

While most experts gave the findings praise, there are a few reservations about the link between a low-fat diet and a lowered risk of dying from breast cancer:

  • This study focused more on whether a low-fat diet could prevent the risk of developing breast cancer, rather than preventing the risk of dying from breast cancer
  • Previous data has not found a link between a low-fat diet and a reduced risk of breast cancer
  • It’s not totally clear whether the reduced fat intake or the additional fruits, vegetables, and grains had more benefits

Despite the reservations of some, this study still shows that diet can have an impact on the risk of dying from breast cancer. While one diet isn’t specific to everyone, overall, maintaining a healthy diet that’s low in fat and rich in more plant-based options can make a difference.

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