Older studies in rats and mice have found that rodents on a high fat diet develop more tumors than those on a low fat diet.
More recently, studies in humans have suggested that following a low fat dietary plan could improve the health and lifespan of women who have received a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Spurred by this existing research, Ross Prentice, Ph.D. — a member of the Cancer Prevention and Biostatistics programs at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, WA — and colleagues at the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) set out to further examine the benefits of a low fat diet for postmenopausal women.
Specifically, the scientists followed almost 50,000 postmenopausal women over 2 decades, in an effort to determine the effects of a low fat diet on breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and heart disease risk.
Prentice and the team have published their findings in The Journal of Nutrition.
Study results after 20-year follow-up
The researchers initially devised the study, called the Dietary Modification Trial, in 1993.
At the time, Prentice and colleagues enrolled 48,835 postmenopausal women living in the United States and assigned 40% of them to a low fat dietary intervention that also aimed for higher intakes of vegetables, fruits, and grains. The other 60% of the participants followed their usual diet.