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Eating these foods lowers death risk from breast cancer

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By David Liu PHD

Monday July 2, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study recently published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment suggests that eating folic acid rich foods such as spinach, asparagus, lentils, garbanzo beans, orange juice and lima beans can help reduce risk of death from breast cancer and increase the odds of survival.

The study led by Holly R. Harris of Karolinska Institutet and colleagues shows that women whose intake of dietary folic acid or commonly known as folate in the highest quartile were 22 percent less likely to die from breast cancer five years post-diagnosis compared to those whose intake was in the lowest quartile.

Harri and colleagues speculated that folate may have an effect on the development and progression of breast cancer through its role in one-carbon metabolism. This epidemiological study was intended to reveal whether dietary folate intake was correlated with survival in 3116 women diagnosed with breast cancer who were enrolled in the population-based Swedish Mammography Cohort.

During 25,716 person-years of follow-up from 1987 to 2008,852 deaths were identified with 381 deaths from breast cancer. 

The researchers found dietary folate intake was inversely associated with breast cancer and overall mortality. 

In addition to the reduction in the death risk from breast cancer, the researchers also found that women with their intake of folate in the highest quartile was associated with 21 percent reduced risk of death from all causes, compared to those whose intake was in the lowest quartile.

The protective effect was found strongest among those whose breast cancers were ER-negative, that is, the highest intake of folate was correlated with 58 percent reduced risk of death from the disease.

The researchers concluded "Our findings suggest that folate intake before breast cancer diagnosis may improve breast cancer and overall survival."

The best dietary sources for folate or folic acid are plant-foods including spinach, asparagus, lentils, garbanzo beans, orange juice and lima beans.  But folate is also used to fortify certain foods.  (When you buy spinach, try to buy organic spinach because non-organic spinach often carries high levels of pesticides).

Folate is known to cut risk of birth defects, which becomes the reason for the government to force food industry to fortify folate in many processed foods.  Research has suggested that intake of too much fortified folate may cause quite some adverse effects.

It is known that eating lots of beans and green vegetables can help breast cancer patients.   It is possible that the association between dietary intake of folic acid and the reduced risk of death from breast cancer is a chance work.   It can be the plant-foods that actually reduce the risk.

Dr. T Colin Campbell, a Cornell University Nutrition professor says in his book titled China Study that a plant-based diet can be protective against a range of diseases including breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other Western diseases.
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