For Breast Health: Eat Well, Keep Moving

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: November 17, 2015

Contributed by Dr. Barb DePree- Red Hot Mamas Medical Expert

Especially as the holidays-and holiday eating-approach, it’s helpful that my medical journals are telling me, again, that I need to eat better and keep moving. And from this recent set of studies, the advice is extremely specific and very clear:

  • Eat a Mediterranean Diet including extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Exercise 300 minutes a week.

Specifically, my medical journals suggest menopausal women do this to avoid breast cancer.

So let’s look at these studies suggesting ways we just might, through diet and exercise, provide our bodies an optimal environment for fighting off breast cancer.

The PREDIMED study, published in JAMA, September, 2015, was conducted in Spain from 2003 to 2009. More than 4,000 women at high cardiovascular risk, aged 60 to 80, were randomly placed on three diets: the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (first cold-pressed), The Mediterranean Diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a Low-Fat diet.

The results of this study have been coming out for some time, and have been fascinating. This latest release shows that those on the olive-oil-supplemented diet had a 68-percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than the other participants in the study. It’s one study, of course, and needs to be repeated, but it’s promising. Earlier outcomes of the PREDIMED study suggested the same diet resulted in a delay in cognitive decline for the same population. There will be more news from this cohort. We will stay tuned.

The exercise link in the Breast Cancer and Exercise Trial in Alberta, Canada, published in JAMA Oncology in 2015. The study followed 400 women, half of whom worked out for a half an hour a day, 5 days a week. The other half worked out for an hour a day, 5 days a week. They worked out at 65 to 75 percent heart rate for at least half of their workouts, all without changing their usual diets. The women were overweight, disease-free non-smokers, and they were followed for three years. Subcutaneous and abdominal fat and waist-to-hip ratio decreased significantly more in the high-exercise-volume group.

Since body fat increases postmenopausal breast cancer risk, this suggests this higher dose is a better dose of exercise for us to keep the weight off, the body fat down. Lower body fat is a better environment for lower breast cancer risk.

My medical advice? Take a brisk walk to the grocery store, buy two big bottles of your favorite extra-virgin oil, and do biceps curls with them on the way home. Or maybe just stay a little longer on your treadmill and have a nice salad with dinner.

Dr. Barb DePree gynecologist, NAMS certified menopausal provider and founder of the website MiddlesexMD, a website for promoting women’s sexual health.