- Melia Robinson/Business Insider
- Eating fewer fatty foods and more fruits, vegetables, and grains could decrease a person’s risk of dying from breast cancer, according to a new study.
- These findings differ from the trendy keto diet. which suggests people eat high amounts of fat and few carbohydrates.
- While it may decrease the risk of death, a low-fat diet wasn’t found to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place.
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The trendy ketogenic diet, a high-fat low-carbohydrate eating plan, has gained loyal followers who say the diet has helped them lose weight quickly, but a new study suggests eating too much fat may not be the best idea when dealing with breast cancer
Researchers have found that a diet that’s low in fat and high in fresh produce and grains may be helpful for preventing risk of death from breast cancer. The study, which will be presented in late May at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual meeting, looked at the diets of 48,835 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 who had no previous history of breast cancer. These women were all part of the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial.
Between 1993 and 1998, the researchers followed the women. They had 60% of the participants continue their normal diets for around 20 years, when they had a checkup with the researchers. The other 40% were asked to follow a low-fat diet during the clinical trial.
Fat accounted for 32% or more of daily calories for the women who ate their regular diets, while only 20% of daily calories came from fat for those on the low-fat diet. Vegetables, fruits, and grains accounted for 40% of their daily calories.
Researchers found that women who ate the low-fat diets had a 21% less risk of death from breast cancer than women who continued the normal diets they had before the trial. The low-fat diet didn’t lower the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place.
The changes researchers observed were insignificant in the early years of the trial, but as they neared the two-decade mark, they noticed the low-fat diet greatly decreased breast cancer death risk when compared to the women on their normal diets.
“Postmenopausal women who take the time to think about and plan their diets will be taking an important step toward prevention and improving their health,” said Dr. Lidia Schapira, an ASCO breast cancer expert.
These findings go against some of the tenets of the keto diet, which suggests eating large amounts of fat in the form of meat, eggs, fish, and dairy, on a daily basis. Doing so while staying away from carbohydrate-heavy foods (including some fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) allows keto dieters to burn fat for energy and lose weight.
People who stand by the keto diet believe it has helped them shed hard-to-lose pounds quickly, lower blood sugar levels, and boost natural energy, but nutrition experts are wary of the diet’s highly restrictive nature.
“[The keto diet] shuns many healthy, whole plant foods – beans, legumes, certain fruits and vegetables, whole grains and pseudograins,” nutritionist Andy Bellatti previously told INSIDER. “All these foods contribute fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that offer many health benefits.”
Preliminary research has suggested the keto diet does have real health benefits. A July 2018 study done on mice found that a keto diet made cancer treatment more effective in the rodents. Ketogenic diets have also been shown to help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes and reduce epileptic seizures in children.
Still, the new study’s results suggest there’s yet another reason keto dieters should be wary of their decision to fill up on fat if they don’t have specific health issues that warrant using the trendy diet.