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One last reason a high-fat diet may be dangerous to good breast health is that it just has too many calories. Dr. Moishe Shike of Memorial Sloan-Kettering is the biggest fan of holding excess calories responsible for excess breast cancer. In fact a low-calorie diet protects against breast cancer. This is backed up by a large number of animal experiments that show that calorie restriction substantially decreases the number of breast cancers.

But there was also a highly unusual, unplanned human experiment, when food rationing was in effect in Norway during World War II. Girls born between 1930 and 1932 consumed far fewer calories than the previous and later generations. Those exposed to a virtual famine at about the age of menarche had a 13 percent decrease in death from breast cancer. This risk decline in breast cancer death continued even after menopause. A recent local study by the South African Institute for Medical Research revealed that the daily energy intake of five-year-old rural black girls was about 1,000 calories, compared with nearly double that amount in Caucasian girls. These black girls have a tiny fraction of the amount of breast cancer risk that the Caucasian girls have.

Don't you need a lot of calories if you have cancer?

Sure, for late-stage disease, many patients even require supplemental feeding. But at Sloan-Kettering, women without advanced disease seem to do better with a lower calorie intake. "If I had to recommend one measure to prevent breast cancer, it would be a low-calorie diet," says Sloan-Kettering's Dr. Shike. He recommends a diet of no more than 1,500 calories for most women. He even recommends a low-calorie diet to early-stage breast cancer patients as a way of preventing a recurrence.

The greatest folly is not to eat too little but to eat foods that are high in starch or fat and low in fiber and nutrients. Even with fewer calories, that diet is more likely to keep fat on and the risk of breast cancer high. You'll want to sit down with a nutritionist and plan how many calories to eat, taking into account your activity level.


There is a simple bottom line. You do want to give up saturated fats, transfats, and omega-6 fats. The best alternatives are either fish oils or olive oils. If you go the low-fat route, as I've said, choose a high-quality vegetarian diet.


Women’s health

  • The alexander technique in practice: dynamic resting the alexander way: getting up
  • Infertility tests for men
  • Premenstrual syndrome: does anyone care?
  • Getting organized for new baby: pros and cons of formula-feeding
  • What makes a woman feel safe: women feel safe when a man allows us entry into his inner world
  • Outsmarting the female fat cell: do you need to psychologically prepare yourself for the off plan?
  • The breast cancer prevention diet: fewer calories
  • Non-hormonal management of the menopause: carbohydrates in nutrition
  • Hormonal control of sperm production: testosterone
  • Womens problems: drug therapy od dysmenorrhoea

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