Meat Increases Breast Cancer Risk
Studies that look at human populations have consistently shown that what we eat affects our cancer risk.74-76 Women who eat more meat, especially red meat, suffer higher breast cancer rates.26,77 In one of the better documented studies, postmenopausal women in China who ate a Western-style diet (which included beef, pork, and desserts) were 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than those eating a diet based on vegetables and soy. Even more startling was the finding that in postmenopausal women, a Western-style diet was associated with a 90% increased risk of estrogen-receptor positive breast tumors!26
In stark contrast, a study demonstrated a 52% decreased risk of breast cancer in women with the highest intake of vegetables and fruits, compared to the lowest intake.78
However, it’s not known whether meat from “free range” animals (beef, buffalo, wild game, chicken, pigs) also increases breast cancer risk. While even organically raised, grain-fed animals (like commercially raised grain-fed animals) have much more omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fatty acids than omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) fatty acids, this ratio is reversed in meat from free-range animals, with significantly more omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids.79 Theoretically, this much more natural ratio should be associated with lower breast (and other) cancer risk, but research still needs to be done on this point.
Protective Effect of Fish Oil
In addition to fish oil’s well-known cardiovascular benefits, research has revealed that omega-3 rich fish oil might offer protection against breast cancer as well.80,81 Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two most important components of fish oil. One investigation documented a 49% decreased risk of breast cancer in women with the highest dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, compared to those with the lowest intake.81 Furthermore, women with the highest red blood cell levels of EPA had a remarkable 73% decreased risk of breast cancer, compared to those with the lowest levels.81
A group of researchers in France compared levels of DHA in breast tissue in 241 patients with breast cancer and 88 patients with non-cancerous benign breast disease. They reported that women with the highest levels of DHA in their breast tissue had a 69% decreased risk of breast cancer, compared to women with the lowest levels of DHA in their breast tissue.82,83
Why Plant Foods Are So Important
The body is bombarded with carcinogens on a daily basis.84 These cancer-causing agents include pesticides, overcooked food, alcohol, food additives, tobacco, fungal mutagens, and industrial pollutants.84 While avoiding carcinogens is difficult, it may be possible to mitigate their lethal effects by providing the body with a specific plant extract that facilitates the detoxification and removal of these dangerous substances from the body.21
A compound called D-glucarate is found in grapefruit, apples, oranges, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.21 D-glucarate has been shown to protect against cancer-causing agents by supporting detoxification and removal of dangerous chemicals, and also by protecting against the mutating effects that these carcinogens induce on cellular DNA.21
There are several mechanisms by which the body detoxifies itself. One way of guarding against toxic overload involves a pathway of detoxification in the body whereby carcinogens are combined with water-soluble substances, thus making them more easily removed from the body. This process is called glucuronidation, and D-glucarate has been shown to support this important detoxification mechanism.21
D-glucarate functions by inhibiting the beta-glucuronidase enzyme, thus protecting the critical “glucuronidation” detoxification mechanism.21 One example of the importance of glucuronidation can be seen in the risk factors for breast cancer. Excess levels of 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone and beta-glucuronidase enzyme activity are associated with an increased incidence of breast cancer.21,54 D-glucarate is thought to decrease estrogen’s effects by favorably affecting estrogen’s metabolism and elimination.21,22
Research studies have shown that D-glucarate inhibits breast tumor incidence.85,86 One study in rats that already had breast cancer showed that oral D-glucarate administration resulted in a 50% inhibition of beta-glucuronidase, which led to a 30% reduction in mammary tumor growth during the promotion stage and a four-fold reduction in the absolute number of tumors.87 Another report showed a more than 70% decrease in mammary tumor development in rats exposed to carcinogens that were also administered D-glucarate.88 Still another study looked at the effects of D-glucarate on the initiation and promotional stages of mammary cancer. The results showed a reduction in incidence of 18% during the initiation stage, while tumor multiplicity was reduced by 42% during the promotion stage.89 Inhibition at the initiation stage is a very important part of D-glucarate’s actions, as it reduces the risk that cancer will even start.
Eating lots of the right fruits (grapefruit, apples, cherries) and vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts) supplies the body with D-glucarate, though it is also available in dietary supplements designed to support breast health.21