Low Carb, High Protein Diet Might Reduce Breast Cancer Incidence
Posted Jun 15 2011 10:11am
We make diet and lifestyle choices every day that effect our risk for breast cancer as well as other cancers. Choosing specific foods to add to our diet or limiting other foods can reduce breast cancer risk. Similarly, choosing to follow a healthier eating pattern like the Mediterranean dietary pattern rather than sticking with our typical Western dietary pattern can reduce our breast cancer risk.
Because there is research to suggest that cancer cells, including breast cancer cells, utilize glucose more than healthy cells, some researchers hypothesize that a low carbohydrate diet might reduce cancer risk. A new research study in mice explored the potential benefits of a low carbohydrate diet on cancer development.
In the first part of the study, researchers implanted mice with mouse tumors and human tumors and then fed them one of two diets. The control diet was a typical Western diet characterized by high amounts of carbohydrates and low amounts of protein. The test diet was low in carbohydrates and high in protein, though it contained the same amount of calories as the Western diet. The cancer researchers reported that tumor growth was substantially lower in mice fed a low-carb, high-protein diet compared to tumor growth in mice fed a Westernized diet. Additionally, benefits of the low-carb, high-protein diet were enhanced by treatment of the mice with an anti-cancer drug and an anti-inflammatory drug.
In the second part of the study, mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to HER-2/neu-induced breast cancer were fed these same two diets. Nearly 50% of these mice fed the Western diet developed breast cancer within a year. In contrast, none of these HER-2/neu susceptible mice developed breast cancer by one year of age. More than 50% of the mice fed the low-carb, high-protein diet in this part of the study reached or exceeded their normal life span, while only 1 mouse fed a Westernized diet lived a full life span.
These are fascinating study results suggesting that a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein might help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers and might slow tumor growth if they do develop. Additional research will need to be done to see if and how this might translate to people. According to the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 45-65% of our calorie consumption should come from carbohydrates, 10-35% should come from protein, and 20-35% should come from fat. While it remains important to remain within these guidelines, they provide flexibility in the amounts we choose to eat. This makes it possible to decrease carbohydrate intake and increase protein intake while still meeting our dietary needs for both of these macronutrients. When increasing protein intake, aim for healthier options including fish, poultry, beans, and lean cuts of red meat.