Getting teens to eat a healthy diet is a struggle for most parents. With the ease of fast food and the temptation of sweets and chips in every vending machine, teen diets are often nutrient-poor. Well, stay vigilant; especially those of you with teen daughters because a recent study showed women who ate high fiber diets in their teens and twenties had a significantly reduced rate of breast cancer later in life.
Breast Cancer Prevention Starts Early
The study that links a high fiber diet as a teen to a reduced risk of breast cancer as an adult was first published in the journal Pediatrics. The 20-year study of the diets of over 90,000 women showed those who consumed the highest quality fiber (i.e. whole grains, fruits and vegetables) had a 19% lower risk of developing breast cancer. Even more importantly, those women who ate more fiber as a teen had a reduced risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer. The earlier a woman develops breast cancer the more aggressive it tends to be and the mortality rate is higher.
The Fiber Effect
Study researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that the fiber effect was due to the fact that dietary fiber cuts down on circulating estrogen levels. Breast cancer is a hormone-driven cancer that thrives on estrogen, so the women who ate a high fiber diet as teens and into their 20s most likely were able to prevent breast cancer from forming because they had lower levels of circulating estrogen over a very long period of their life.
Fiber also improves insulin sensitivity because it reduces insulin-like growth factors, lowering one’s risk of diabetes, too. Diabetic women have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
It’s long been known that fiber helps keep the pounds from piling on and obesity is directly linked to increasing a woman’s risk of breast cancer, too.
Finally, it’s well known within the medical community that carcinogens ingested during childhood and adolescence heavily influences breast tissue. A diet that consists of lots of fiber rich-foods like most fruits and vegetables also means the body is getting healthy doses of antioxidants, another important way to prevent breast cancer.
Talk To Your Teen
Previous smaller studies have not consistently supported the benefits of a high fiber diet in adolescent girls and breast cancer prevention, but the huge scope of this study for over two decades lends weight to its validity. It’s certainly a good idea to talk with your teenage daughter about her eating habits and make sure she has access to plenty of high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains regularly. This will not only reduce her risk of breast cancer, but offer improved health overall and set her up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.