July 12, 2007 — -- A new study suggests the more Western your diet is — meaning heavy on meat, starch and sugar — the higher your risk for cancer may be.
The study followed older Asian women who had been placed on two separate diets: traditional cuisine rich in vegetables and fish and a Westernized diet heavy on red meat and sugar. Women who adopted the Western diet had higher rates of breast cancer.
"Our study shows a Western-style diet seems to increase [the] risk of cancer in Chinese women, which traditionally is a low-risk population for breast cancer," said Marilyn Tseng, a study researcher at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Breast cancer rates in China are a quarter of those in the United States. That's changing, though, as menus around the world, especially in urban areas, move toward Westernized global fare.
"Adopting a more Western diet increases intake of saturated fat," said Keith Thomas Ayoob, a professor of nutrition at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It may be squeezing out whole grains and vegetables."
This study is the latest evidence that the typical American diet is high risk. Americans can take steps toward improving their health by considering Asian-inspired diets.
"One simple but important step is cutting down on meat consumption, especially red meat," Ayoob said.
Ayoob said that a healthy daily diet should include 4½ cups of fruit and vegetables, at least three servings of whole grains and at least three cups of dairy foods.