Enterolactone Levels Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Mortality
Posted Mar 11 2011 10:10am
Lignans are a group of chemicals found in plants that have antioxidant activity. Lignans are also one of the major groups of phytoestrogens because, like other phytoestrogens, they have weak estrogen-like activities. When consumed, these phytochemicals are converted to the mammalian lignans, enterolactone and enterodiol. Numerous research studies have reported that both mammalian lignans and their plant precursors have multiple health benefits for humans, including breast cancer fighting benefits.
A new breast cancer research study evaluated the impact of plasma enterolactone levels as measured before diagnosis of breast cancer on subsequent breast cancer mortality. To assess this relationship between enterolactone and breast cancer mortality, researchers measured enterolactone levels in 424 breast cancer patients. Of these breast cancer patients, 80 died from breast cancer and another 31 died from other causes. When the researchers compared women with higher-than-average enterolactone levels to women with lower-than-average enterolactone levels, it was shown that having high enterolactone levels before breast cancer diagnosis was linked to a 44% decrease in breast cancer mortality and a 53% decrease in overall mortality.
This is a very interesting study that continues to confirm the importance of a healthy diet for decreasing breast cancer mortality and enhancing breast cancer survival. Since mammalian lignans are derived from plants that we consume, it is important to eat foods rich in these plant phytoestrogens. The best known sources for these healthy phytochemicals are flax seeds and sesame seeds; however, lignans are also found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, etc.), whole grains (rye, wheat, oats, and barley), and at lower levels in some fruits (apricot, strawberries). In addition to having breast cancer fighting benefits, eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and fruit that are rich in these phytoestrogens is a great way to enhance the nutritional profile of one’s overall diet. These foods are nutrient dense foods, meaning that they provide lots of nutrition without many calories. It is because of the reduced risk for breast cancer mortality and other breast cancer fighting benefits of these lignans, that flaxseed still remains in my top 10 breast cancer fighting foods.