Scientists have found that teenage girls and young women who eat a lot of high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of breast cancer later in life. Researchers at T.H. Chan School of Public Health of Harvard University studied diet and health data of more than 90,500 women and followed them for 20 years. They also asked women about what they normally ate during their teenage years.
Take 25-30 grams of fiber a day
Findings of the study were published in the journal Pediatrics. Maryam Farvid, the lead author of the study, said consuming high fiber diet earlier in life helps prevent breast cancer later. The recommended daily fiber intake is 25-30 grams. The study found that women who consumed more dietary fiber in their youth were 12% to 19% less likely to have breast cancer, depending on how much more fiber they ate.
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Eating more fiber during adolescence lowered the risk of breast cancer by 16% overall and by 24% before menopause compared to those who consumed lower fiber. Notably, 2,833 women were diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of the study. Scientists found that each additional 10 grams of fiber intake per day can lower the risk by 14%.
How fiber reduces the risk of breast cancer
Eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables is one lifestyle choice women can take to reduce the risk of breast cancer. It helps partly by reducing the high estrogen levels in blood, which have strong links with the cancer development, through changes in the gut microbiome. High fiber foods include raspberries, apples, green peas, artichokes, broccoli, pears, lentils, beans, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain bread.
Dr. Stephanie Bernik, an oncology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CBS News that the study shows that we need to encourage girls to start healthy eating habits early on. This is just one mechanism to reduce the risk. Since it was an observational study rather than a clinical intervention, it warrants further study.