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Teenage girls who eat lots of fruit and veg protect themselves from breast cancer
A study published in the Pediatrics journal reveals that eating food rich in fibres during the teenage years reduces the odds of developing breast cancer when adult.
Researchers at Harvard University have no doubts: by examining the clinical history and food habits of more than 44,000 women they found that consuming lots of fibres during high school years may reduce the odds of developing breast cancer later on.
Compared to young women who don’t like to eat foods high in fibres (14 grammes consumed daily on average), those who ingest large amounts of fibres (28 grammes daily on average) have a 16% lower risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime and a 24% lower risk of suffering from the disease before menopause.
The positive role of fibres for our health is not news. Previous studies demonstrate that these can protect the heart, prevent diabetes, boost weight loss as well as regulate intestinal functions and prevent harmful substances from remaining in the intestines by acting as anti-cancer agents and impeding the formation or absorption of carcinogenic substances. The study we mentioned above provides evidence of other potential benefits.
Maryam Farvid, lead author of the study and researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, states that the connection between fibre consumption and the risk of developing cancer is time-sensitive. Adolescence is “a period when breast cancer risk factors appear to be particularly important,” she said.
“From many other studies we know that breast tissue is particularly influenced by carcinogens and anticarcinogens during childhood and adolescence. We now have evidence that what we feed our children during this period of life is also an important factor in future cancer risk”, Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and senior author of the study, commented.
Researchers think that a diet rich in fibres can contribute to reducing oestrogen levels, which are involved in the development of breast cancer. Other possible explanations include the improvement of insulin sensitivity that is caused by fibres, which can slow down the absorption of sugars and help keep sugar levels in the blood more stable.
How many fibres are necessary?
At least 30 grammes per day. The better way to reach this number is to add fibres to every meal by consuming fruit, vegetables, whole cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds. Pears are one of the major sources of fibres: a medium-size one contains about 7 grammes, almost one fourth of the recommended daily intake.
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