A diet rich in coffee, fruit and vegetables may protect against breast cancer, research suggests.
Findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow show a protective effect from a diet rich in phenolic acids on the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. Phenolic acids are found in coffee, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Rich sources include raspberries, blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, plums, onions, coffee, red wine, cocoa, whole wheat, rice, corn and oats.
The study was led by a team from the University of Navarra and the University of Jaen in Spain. They looked at the link between phenolic acids, including hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids, and breast cancer in 11,028 women.
During an average follow-up of almost 12 years, the researchers found 101 cases of breast cancer among the group of women. All the women had completed a food questionnaire at the start of the study saying how often they ate 136 different food items. Their intake of phenolic acids was calculated by matching food consumption data from the questionnaire with a database on the phenolic acid content of each food.
Researchers split women into three groups according to their intake of phenolic acids, with those with the highest consumption of hydroxycinnamic acids – a naturally occurring type of phenolic acid – having a 62 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those with the lowest intake.
Chlorogenic acids – a type of hydroxycinnamic acid found in coffee, fruits and vegetables – were discovered to have the strongest effect.
Women consuming the most of this type of nutrient had a 65 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those consuming the least.
The researchers concluded: “A higher intake of hydroxycinnamic acids, especially from chlorogenic acids – present in coffee, fruits and vegetables – was associated with decreased post-menopausal breast cancer risk.”
They said the diet could possibly reduce fat tissue inflammation, oxidative stress that can damage tissue, or resistance to insulin. Dr Kotryna Temcinaite, research communications manager at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said: “While we don’t recommend drinking lots of coffee to try to reduce your breast cancer risk, we’d encourage all women to eat plenty of fruit and veg as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said the research suggested to older women to make eating five-a-day a “permanent choice”.