Can Healthy Eating Reduce the Risk of Dying from Breast Cancer?

By Jonesa Rodriguez - March 05, 2020

It’s not always easy to eat healthy, but what if changing your diet could have a positive impact on your health outcome and potentially save your life? Diets have always been suspected to be a factor in cancer. Researchers have debated for years on which diets are the best and help in reducing the risk of diseases. A recent study from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) provides clinical evidence that a healthy diet can make a difference for cancer patients and survivors. 

The Women’s Health Initiative Trial 
According to the WHI trial, women who followed a balanced diet that was low in fat and included daily servings of fruits, vegetables and grains, had a 21% lower risk of death from breast cancer than women who followed a high-fat diet. This clinical trial investigated more than 48,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79, from 40 U.S. clinical centers, who had no previous breast cancer history. This was the first large randomized clinical trial to show that diet can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.

From 1993-1998 researchers randomly assigned women into two dietary groups. A normal diet where fat accounted for 32% of their daily caloric intake or a low-fat diet plan to reduce fat consumption to 20% percent or less. Participants on the low-fat diet were monitored through several sessions with a nutritionist and followed the plan for eight years. Those on the balanced diet were able to reduce their fat intake to 25% (most women didn’t reach the 20% goal). Researchers noted that there was a 3% weight loss among the group. 

After following participants for almost 20 years and diagnosing more than 3,000 cases of breast cancer among both groups, the key findings were women on the low-fat diet experienced short – and long-term health benefits, compared with the women on the normal diet. Researchers saw that there was a 21% lower risk of death solely from breast cancer in the low-fat diet group and the risk of any cause-related death decreased by 15% as well. 

Benefits of a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is important for your body to function effectively. Aside from the results of this recent study, there are many benefits to balancing a nutritious diet. Eating healthy can improve your memory, your mood and reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition. The biggest benefit is more money in your wallet. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of certain diseases – which equate to big savings in health care costs.

Combining a healthy diet with physical activity and stress management can improve the quality of life, manage weight and reduce symptoms of fatigue, according to Diane Riccardi, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Moffitt Cancer Center.

“Besides reducing the risk of cancer deaths, a healthy diet offers powerful health benefits, including lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” said Riccardi. “Packed with fiber and low in calories, diets that are rich in plant sources are an important part of getting and staying at a healthy weight, a challenge for many breast cancer survivors.”

The connection between a healthy diet and a positive health outcome is too important to disregard. Committing to a healthy diet may not be easy, but it can be the best decision you can make. Changing everyday eating habits in your diet can go a long way! 

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