FOOD FOR THOUGHT
New facts on the effects of low-fat diets
Back in February, shocking headlines screamed about a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study that suggested low-fat diets weren’t worth the tofu they were printed on when it comes to preventing breast cancer, colorectal cancer, stroke and heart disease in middle-age women. But if that got you thinking that diet doesn’t matter, think again.
“The results of this study do not change established recommendations on disease prevention,” says Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Women should continue to get regular mammograms and screenings for colorectal cancer and work with their doctors to reduce their risks for heart disease, including following a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.” Since the WHI study only looked at total fat, not types of fat, and given that there was, in fact, a nine percent improvement among women who started the study at the high end of fat consumption, healthy eaters are still a step ahead. (Nine percent is considered statistically irrelevant, but it was certainly relevant to those individual women!)
They can turn that step into a leap now that news reveals that veggie consumption really does make a difference. A Georgetown University study shows that vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol (also called I3C), which helps damaged DNA cells repair themselves—which, in turn, helps stop them from becoming cancerous. Another compound, geistein, found in soy beans, could have a similar impact on breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.
“The function of crucial cancer genes can be influenced by compounds in the things we eat,” confirms the study’s senior author, Eliot M. Rosen, MD, PhD. “Our findings suggest a clear molecular process that would explain the connection between diet and cancer prevention.” There’s a thought to chew on!