An Early Start To A High-Fiber Diet Can Lower Women's Risk Of Breast Cancer

Teenage girls and young women who eat a high-fiber diet may have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later in life, suggests a new study published in the Pediatrics journal.

During a 20-year study period, researchers found that young women who consumed high amounts of fiber — fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, and certain grains — had a 12 to 19 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than their peers with low-fiber diets in early adulthood.

The study, which looked at data for more than 90,500 women between the ages of 27 and 44, also found that women who ate lots of fiber as teenagers had a 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer before menopause. During the course of the study, 2,833 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

"This study reminds us the role of early-life diet on health in later life," said lead study author Maryam Farvid, a scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Women are doing themselves a huge favor in terms of breast cancer prevention if they increase the amount of dietary fiber intake earlier in life rather than later."

Moreover, "each additional 10 grams of fiber intake per day — for example, about one apple and two slices of whole wheat bread, or about half a cup of whole grain pasta with half a cup of cooked kidney beans — during adolescence reduces the risk of breast cancer by 14 percent," according to Farvid. An ideal high-fiber diet, up to 30 grams of fiber per day, could "substantially reduce" the risk of breast cancer for adult women.