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Why following an unhealthy vegan diet can increase the risk of breast cancer by 20%

The study highlights the importance of increasing consumption of healthy plant foods and decreasing consumption of less healthy plant and animal foods (Getty Images)

Research on the interaction between diet and cancer risk they are still at an early stage. However, and little by little, some results are beginning to make visible which dietary patterns are better than others for reducing disease risk, so much cardiovascular as oncological.

Now, a new work presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE, points to that the quality of the diet in general is the most important thing to reduce the risk of cancer. And this would be especially important with breast cancer.

The study, led by Sanam Shah, predoctoral researcher at the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at Paris-Saclay University from France, analyzed data from 65,574 postmenopausal women. The volunteers completed dietary intake questionnaires between 1993 and 2005, and were followed for an average of 21 years.

During the study follow-up period, 3,968 participants were diagnosed with breast cancer. When cancer rates were compared by diet quality consumed, significant differences could be identified in the risk of cancer based on how healthy your baseline diet was.

Following a healthy plant-based diet may be associated with a 14% lower risk of breast cancer
Following a healthy plant-based diet may be associated with a 14% lower risk of breast cancer

The researchers used 18 food groups to categorize the degree of adherence to a plant-based diet compared to an animal-based diet, and the consumption of healthy versus less healthy foods. For specialists, a plant-based diet would not be synonymous with a vegetarian or vegan dietbut it would be an eating pattern that Prioritize the consumption of plant-based foods on those of animal origin. The latter would not be excluded, but they would not be the majority.

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According to their findings, following a healthy plant-based diet would be related with a 14% lower risk of breast cancer, while an unhealthy plant-based diet -with vegetable foods, but ultra-processed– would relate to a 20% increased risk of suffering from breast cancer.

The findings were consistent across all cancer subtypes studied. It would not be just a matter of consuming plant-based foods without further ado, but that The diet in general is healthy. as comment Shah, These findings would highlight the importance of increasing the consumption of healthy plant foods and decreasing the consumption of less healthy plant and animal foods.

As a final conclusion, the experts suggested that choosing healthy plant-based foods could be helpful in preventing breast cancer (Getty Images)
As a final conclusion, the experts suggested that choosing healthy plant-based foods could be helpful in preventing breast cancer (Getty Images)

Previous studies have already examined cancer risk associated with various dietary patterns, such as the Western diet, Mediterranean diet, and vegetarian diets. Although it is true that some studies would suggest that diets with less meat or without meat would be more beneficial for health, results have been mixed.

In this case, the study focused on differentiating healthy foods of plant origin, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetable oils, tea and coffee. On the list of plant-based foods classified as less healthy, on the contrary, they include fruit juices, refined cereals, potatoes, sugary drinks and pastries.

As final conclusion, Shah and his colleagues suggested that choosing healthy plant-based foods could be helpful in preventing breast cancer, but they are also aware that more research is needed. Thus, the connections between diet and cancer risk in general must be evaluated depending on the population studied. For the time being, since this is an observational study and not a clinical trial, causality cannot be determined.

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