Who knew that my fondness for Japanese seaweed salad might also protect me from breast cancer? Apparently researchers did. Nutrition studies are finally exhibiting positive results toward breast cancer prevention. Makes me wish I had listened to Mom a lot earlier when she’d throw something green on my otherwise yellow plate and pester me to eat my veggies. She’ll be happy to know that I’m ready to ingest these five foods to keep my breasts healthy.
Dr. John Glaspy, Director of UCLA’s Oncology Center, headed a study that had a group of breast cancer survivors ingest large quantities of fish oils for three months while following a diet that was low in fat, high in soy products, and included a variety of vegetables. The increased omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in women’s breast tissue metabolized into prostaglandins—a hormone-like substance that can inhibit cancer-cell growth. Glaspy is furthering his research to follow the effects of Asian diets, which are rich in soy and vegetables, since breast cancer strikes only one in forty Asian women compared to one in eight in America.
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The Brassica Group of Vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, chard, and turnips
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that indole-3-carbinol, a chemical in broccoli and other vegetables of the Brassica genus, stops the growth of breast cancer cells. Leonard F. Bjeldanes, professor of toxicology in the College of Natural Resources, has studied indole-3-carbinol for more than fifteen years and discovered that its effects halt the breast cancer cells’ development while maintaining the healthy cells. Researchers also reported that high vegetable diets have been linked to a lowered risk of breast cancer since some chemicals in vegetables suppress estrogen, which can stimulate the growth of both breast cells and breast cancer cells.
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Researchers in Japan and the United States have studied the relationship between seaweed with breast cells and estradiol, the sex hormone derived from cholesterol. At Nagoya University School of Medicine, Japanese scientists found that when mekabu, the gooey thread-like seaweed closely related to wakame (brown seaweed), was left in distilled water for twenty-four hours in vitro, it created a solution that produced a natural process of self-destruction in three kinds of human breast cells. The effects were stronger than any other chemotherapy drug and didn’t kill off any of the normal human mammary cells—making a weekly sushi date is good for your heart and your breasts.
In another study supported by the National Foundation for Cancer Research and the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that a diet rich in kelp seaweed lowered estradiol in rats and raised hopes that it could decrease any estrogen-dependent disease, like breast cancer, from formulating in humans. Christine Skibola, assistant research toxicologist at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, found that one woman who took 700 milligrams of seaweed capsules while including kelp in her diet had dropped her estradiol levels from 600 picograms per milliliter to 90 picograms per milliliters. Kelp seaweed capsules can help increase levels, though Skibola did mention in a press release that kelp seaweed isn’t for everyone. “People should be careful about excessive kelp intake,” she said. “The high levels of iodine and the low levels of heavy metals contained in kelp means that it’s not recommended for people who are pregnant, nursing, or who have hyperthyroid conditions.”
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Vitamin D Foods
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) reported that an increased intake of vitamin D lowered the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50 percent, suggesting that women should consume high concentrations of vitamin D from shrimp, cod, Chinook salmon, eggs, or milk. In a study of 31,000 women at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, researchers found a moderately lower risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women when they had a high intake of calcium and vitamin D through food sources and nutritional supplements. If you can’t get your hands on any vitamin D-rich food, a ten-minute midday walk in the sunshine can also help you get what you need.
Now there’s an even bigger incentive to have that late afternoon cup of pick-me-up green tea. A study in the Journal of Cancer Biology and Therapy by scientists at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) showed that green tea had anti-tumor effects in breast cancer cells. The study observed that green tea can slow down the breast cancer cells and identified the mechanisms involved in the invasion inhibiting effects of green tea. An earlier study done by the same researcher, Dr. Radha Maheshwari, professor of Pathology at USU, showed that green tea could reduce the growth of tumors as well as kill off breast cancer cells, which makes a strong case for switching a morning coffee or black tea to green tea.
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Though diet isn’t the only factor that potentially influences the development of breast cancer, organizations like the Cancer Project have shared research that those who eat a diet high in plant foods, low in fat, and free from animal products have a much lower risk of developing cancer. Adhering to all three may help keep our breasts bouncing long past the rest of our bodies.
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