Low-Fat Diets Rich in Fruits and Veggies May Reduce Women’s Risk of Breast Cancer Death, Study Finds
A low-fat diet that prioritizes eating healthier foods like fruits and vegetables each day could lower a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer, according to a multi-decade study published this month.
The federally funded study, which involved almost 49,000 women aged 50-79 years old, found that after around 20 years, those who cut down their dietary fat to 25 percent or less and opted for more fruits and vegetables reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer by 21 percent.
The randomized clinical trial is the first of its kind to demonstrate that a healthy diet may reduce postmenopausal women's risk of death from breast cancer, the Washington Post reported. The results of previous observational studies, which cannot indicate cause and effect, have been inconsistent.
"Patients are eager for things that they can do," Dr. Jennifer Ligibel of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who was not involved in the study, told the Associated Press. "It really suggests that changing your diet, losing weight, exercising, could actually be a treatment."
As part of the large Women's Health Initiative, the study followed 48,835 women who had no prior history of breast cancer for a median of 19.6 years. Beginning in 1993, researchers divided them into groups: one group had diets where 32 percent or more of daily calories came from fat, while the other was instructed to reduce fat in their diet to 20 percent or less and eat daily servings of fruit, vegetables and grains.
Most of the low-fat group, which had to maintain the diet for 8.5 years, managed to limit fat intake to 25 percent or less of their daily calories. They saw an average 3 percent loss in body weight, USA Today reported, noting that the study did not differentiate between types of fat.
From 1993 to 2013, nearly 3,400 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, women in the low-fat group had a 15 percent lower risk of dying from any cause. The Associated Press reported that after 20 years, researchers also began to see a difference between the groups in deaths specifically from breast cancer, though the observed benefit of a low-fat diet was still small, as only 383 women in the study died from the disease. Adopting a low-fat diet did not lower the women's risk of developing breast cancer to begin with, however.
"The balanced diet we designed is one of moderation, and after nearly 20 years of follow-up, the health benefits are still accruing," lead study author Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said in a press release.
Health experts, including a study co-author, told NPR that our understanding of health and unhealthy fats has grown since the study was designed, so it's difficult to gauge what truly led to the risk reduction, whether it was reducing fat across the board of increasing consumption, general weight loss, or consuming more healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and grains.
Still, Chlebowski told the Washington Post that the study demonstrated that women could improve their health with only simple dietary changes. "It's not like eating twigs and branches," he said. "It's what people were eating, say, 20 years ago, before you could pick up 900 calories in one candy bar."
The study has not yet been published by a peer-reviewed journal, though the results will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in June.
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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