The Women's Intervention Nutrition Study looked at 2,437 postmenopausal breast cancer patients and found that when fat intake in their diets was reduced to 20 percent or less, risk of recurrence was cut by an impressive 24 percent. Among women who had low or no estrogen receptors (referred to as estrogen negative), the low-fat diet was even more effective. This group showed a 42 percent reduction in breast cancer recurrence.
In recent years, researchers have found that women with early-stage breast cancer who had the highest insulin levels were twice as likely to have their tumor metastasize, and three times as likely to die of breast cancer, as women whose insulin levels were the lowest. Choosing a whole-foods diet and staying fit can help reduce risks of breast cancer recurrence that can occur with elevated sugar and insulin levels. At the Block Center, we strongly advise patients combatting breast cancer, trying to prevent recurrence, or with high risk factors that call for focused breast cancer prevention efforts ask their doctor to routinely monitor their insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as their insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).
We believe that careful, long-term monitoring is necessary to individualize therapeutic interventions for each patient. There are ways you can modify your diet to help prevent breast cancer or help avoid breast cancer recurrence that are appropriate for all of our patients. (The exception: women with a marked wasting syndrome or anorexic condition.)
Eat a diet lower in fat, ideally no more than 18 percent of your daily caloric intake. Choose foods high in "good" fats – monounsaturated and omega-3 fats – from walnuts, flaxseed oil, and cold-water fish such as salmon; and omega-9 fatty acids that you can find in olives, olive oil, almonds and avocados. Though these contain healthier fats, they should all be consumed in limited quantities due to their relatively high fat content.
Eat cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, bok choy, and brussels sprouts, which contain plant phytochemicals that can bind and lower blood estrogen levels while increasing the estrogen detoxification capacity of the liver.
Eat a diet high in fiber. Eat whole cereal grains, particularly those with soluble fiber such as oats and barley, beans and legumes and fruits and vegetables. Cracked flax, besides adding healthy fiber, contains lignans, which have been shown to provide protection for women at risk for breast cancer. These fiber-rich foods help you feel full longer, and don't cause the sudden rise in blood-sugar levels that can occur when consuming refined carbohydrates.
These cancer-fighting nutritional recommendations are intended to help curtail inflammation, reduce free-radical damage, minimize platelet activation (which can lead to dangerous blood clotting), manage blood-sugar surges and reduce serum levels of IGF-1. Ideally, however, a nutrition plan, along with whole plant supplements, should be individualized to your unique laboratory-tested needs. Talk with your doctor about these and other dietary strategies to reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrence.
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