The theory that eating whole grains and other high-fiber foods may reduce the risk of breast cancer isn’t new, but prior studies haven’t shown a meaningful link. A new one just published in Pediatrics has, and it found even more specifically that if teens start eating fiber-rich diets early on, they can potentially cut their risk of getting breast cancer during their lifetime by 16 percent.
Researchers studied the dietary habits of 44,000 women over a period of 20 years. Several thousand ended up getting breast cancer, unfortunately, but they found that the women who had the 25 to 30 grams of recommended fiber every day were 12 to 19 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who only ate half as much. Teens already on this full-fiber diet, moreover, had a 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
It’s worth pointing out that the findings put a fair amount of trust in the memories of 30- and 40-year-olds — the women weren’t teens when the study started, so they had to recall their diets from those years. But since the pattern held for tens of thousands of subjects, the authors say they feel pretty confident in the link. “We now have evidence that what we feed our children during this period of life is also an important factor in future cancer risk,” the lead co-author, a Harvard professor of epidemiology and nutrition, writes.
Luckily, there are plenty of foods high in fiber besides All-Bran — even things like artichokes, pears, peas, and lentils. They just all tend to be pretty healthy, so watch out, tweens: The moms of the world just got some pretty good ammo against junk food.