The effect of diet on breast cancer generated quite a bit of news recently, as results from a large multi-center study were released. The findings were just the latest in a line of reports from the seven-year Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) trial on the effect of diet in more than 3,000 pre-and postmenopausal women who were survivors of early-stage breast cancer.
The newest findings appeared in the July 18th Journal of the American Medical Association, and the headlines that followed might have convinced you that eating fruits and vegetables are totally ineffective against breast cancer. But that’s not at all what the study found.
Previous Positive Findings. In June, the same WHEL trial reported that fruits and vegetables were indeed protective against recurrence of breast cancer in the women. In fact, those who followed a recommendation to eat five fruits and vegetables daily and who remained physically active were almost 50% less likely to die during the seven years of the study.
The WHEL study from which both reports were drawn divided the women into two groups. One group ate at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. The other group was instructed to eat eight a day (five vegetables and three fruits) plus 16 ounces of vegetable juice, as part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
More No Better? Surprisingly, eating more than the commonly recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day provided no additional protection against the recurrence of breast cancer.
However, the study was not designed to address whether extra fruits and vegetables might help protect women against developing breast cancer in the first place. Yet that was the mistaken impression conveyed by many headlines.
EN?s Fruit and Vegetable Advice. The findings from the WHEL study clearly suggest a benefit to breast cancer survivors who eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and are physically active. But additional research is needed to determine whether fruits and vegetables may actually help prevent breast cancer from developing initially, as some other studies have suggested, and, if so, how much is optimal.
Until then, EN recommends you ?Strive for 5.? Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and naturally occurring phytonutrients that experts believe can help provide protection against a wide range of diseases, including other forms of cancer.