A low-fat diet can reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses, such as breast cancer, diabetes, colorectal cancer and coronary heart disease (CHD) among postmenopausal women in the United States, a study confirmed.
The research, published in the Journal of Nutrition’s September issue, focused on the long-term health benefits of low-fat dietary pattern. The research team found that having food items containing fruits, vegetables and grains reduced the risk of several chronic illnesses in women.
For the study, the team observed a total of 48,835 postmenopausal women aged between 50 and 79 years for a period of 20 years. The participants were asked to focus on a baseline intake of 32 percent less energy from fat.
Though the researchers were unable to find any significant difference in the participants’ health during the 8.5 year intervention period, they found a significant difference in the longer follow-up period of 20 years.
At the end of the study, the research team found that women who followed a low fat diet were 15-35 percent less likely to die due to the causes following breast cancer. They witnessed 13-25 percent reduction in insulin dependency among women who were following a low-fat diet.
The research team even found a 15-30 percent reduction in coronary heart disease among the 23,000 women who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease or baseline hypertension.
“The WHI’s Dietary Modification Trial has provided women with nutrition and disease prevention insights for some years,” lead researcher Ross Prentice, who is a member of the Cancer Prevention and Biostatistics programs at Fred Hutch, said in a statement.
“The latest results support the role of nutrition in overall health, and indicate that low-fat diets rich in fruits, vegetables and grains have health benefits without any observed adverse effects,” he added.
In the first year of the research, trained nutritionists taught the participants integrated concepts about nutrition and behavior, which were reinforced quarterly for nearly a decade.
“The sheer number of new diets and nutrition trends can be overwhelming to people who simply want to know, ‘What should I be eating? While there are many diets that provide short-term benefits like weight loss, this study scientifically validates the long-term health effects of a low-fat diet,” co-author Garnet Anderson, senior vice president and director of Fred Hutch’s Public Health Sciences Division.