A study released on Monday has suggested eating fiber may help reduce the risk of breast cancer in women. The findings – published in the Paediatrics Journal – were based on a sample of some 44,000 women who completed questionnaires on their diet. The women were at high school at the time of the long-term study.

Results suggest that those who eat more high-fiber foods during this period were a quarter less likely to develop the disease in later life.

The study was led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that women who ate relatively higher amounts of fiber on a daily basis (more than 28 grams on average) enjoyed a 24% lower risk of developing cancer before the menopause when compared with a group who only consumed 14 grams per day.

Kimberley Blackwell is a specialist in breast cancer at Duke University and says the study is of great value in understanding how to prevent disease.

Fibrous foods such as fruit and vegetables may help reduce the risk of developing cancer
Fibrous foods such as fruit and vegetables may help reduce the risk of developing cancer

“This is a critical review … [suggesting] that the more fiber you eat during your high school years, the lower your risk is in developing breast cancer,” she said in literature accompanying the article published today.

It’s long been recognized fiber has an important part to play in staying healthy for longer, but until now no large-scale study had corroborated scientists’ assumptions.

The lead author of the study points out adolescence, in particular, seems to be a crucial period for women’s’ health: “This work on the role of nutrition in early life and breast cancer incidence suggests one of the very few potentially modifiable risk factors for premenopausal breast cancer.

The study sets the scene for much-improved advice on eating habits for young women. Fiber has long been recognised as vital to the human body for its benefits.

A prevention of constipation, it also may protect against colorectal cancer and diabetes, as well as slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates and controlling weight.