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Study: Loading Up on Fruits and Veggies Won't Lower Breast Cancer Recurrence

A long-term study of breast cancer survivors shows that eating more than the recommended 5 daily servings of vegetables and fruit has no effect on breast cancer recurrence or deaths. Although researchers are disappointed by the finding, they say women should still strive to fit plenty of these healthy foods into their diet because they have other benefits.

"There are many reasons women should eat a healthy diet, but for breast cancer, there's little evidence that the foods you eat impact risk," says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity at ACS. "What is important is how much you eat, because being overweight is an established risk factor for developing postmenopausal breast cancer, and it also increases the risk of recurrence. That's the message we want breast cancer survivors to know: Watching your weight is really important."

The study, called the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Trial, was led by a team from the University of California, San Diego, and included researchers from 7 other institutions. The participants were more than 3,000 women (pre- and post-menopause) who had been treated for stage I, II, or III breast cancer.

The women were randomly assigned to 2 diet groups: The control group was told to follow US dietary guidelines, which recommend eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, more than 20 grams of fiber, and no more than 30% of calories from fat.

The second group was told to boost their fruit and veggie intake to include 5 vegetables, 3 fruits, 16 ounces of vegetable juice, and 30 grams of fiber each day. They were also supposed to cut their fat intake to 15%-20% of total calories. The women in this group got periodic telephone counseling, cooking classes, and newsletters aimed at helping them stick with this eating plan.

Researchers tracked the women's progress for more than 7 years on average. They saw clear differences in the amount of fruits and vegetables the women in the 2 groups ate, although after year 4 of the study, the gap between the 2 groups tended to narrow. On average, the women in the second group never achieved their goal of getting only 15%-20% of their calories from fat; in fact, by year 6, they were eating a higher percentage of fat than at the beginning of the study.

Despite the difference in fruit and vegetable consumption, the 2 groups had very similar cancer experiences during the 7 years. About 17% of women in each group had a recurrence during the study period, and about 10% of women in each group died.

Sourse - American Cancer Society

| Tags: Breast Cancer, Cancer, Women's Health |

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