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Vegetables May Benefit Breast Health

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Vegetables May Benefit Breast Health

Girls who ate veggies at an early age were less likely to develop benign breast disease later

Girls who eat lots of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids are less likely to develop benign breast disease, according to a new study.

Carotenoids, a group of pigments that typically produce an orange, red or dark green color, are believed to have antioxidant properties that absorb harmful free radicals, providing protection against disease. Benign breast disease refers to several noncancerous conditions of the breast; some forms increase the risk of breast cancer.

“There have been a number of studies about carotenoids and breast cancer,” says lead researcher Caroline Boeke, a postdoctoral fellow at Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston.

But the studies have had mixed results, so Boeke and her team analyzed the intake of these vegetables by girls enrolled in an ongoing study that began in 1996. In the study of nearly 6,600 girls, 122 received a benign breast disease diagnosis a decade after the study started.

Researchers found high intakes of carotenoid-rich vegetables— two to three servings a week—were protective. “The odds of benign breast disease in those who consumed the most beta carotene were about half that of those who consumed the least,” Boeke says. “It’s an observational study, so we can’t say for sure the carotenoids cause the lower risk. We can only say there’s an association.”

Foods rich in carotenoids include kale, melons, spinach and yams.

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BHM Edit Staff