The Western calorie-rich diet may be responsible for a range of chronic conditions. Earlier E-news broadcasts have suggested a link with diabetes, osteoporosis (although several ‘patient groups’ got terribly upset when we suggested this), and it may also be one of the causes of breast cancer.
It’s not exactly news to most of us, perhaps, but medical researchers have provided compelling evidence that adds to the picture. They have found that women who suffered from anorexia nervosa as teenagers and young women are far less likely to suffer from breast cancer in later life.
In fact, women who had serious anorexia – which required hospital care – were only half as likely, on average, to develop breast cancer as those who had never starved themselves.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School made the discovery after they studied the records of 7,300 women in Sweden who had hospital care for anorexia nervosa before the age of 40. The protective effect increased to 76 per cent if the woman went on to have a child, while the effect dropped to 23 per cent among those who never had children.
There were no cases of cancer among the women who were anorexic before they were 20, when nearly three cancer cases would usually be expected.
So does this mean we have to starve our teenage daughters if they are going to avoid breast cancer in later life? It’s probably enough to reduce the calories, and to keep watching the intake thereafter, and it should provide plenty of other health benefits besides.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004; 291: 1226-30).