New study: Fruit in teen years linked to lower breast cancer risk

May 16, 2016 Providence Health Team

The benefits of eating fruits are no secret. According to the CDC, fruits and vegetables reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Now, a new study suggests that teenage girls who eat ample quantities of fruit have a lower risk of breast cancer in middle age.

90,000 women studied

Maryam Farvid, leader of the study, said that eating apples, bananas and grapes during adolescence was strongly associated with a drop in breast cancer risk. Three servings of fruit each day versus just half of a serving might lower the risk by as much as 25 percent in late years, according to the study.

The research team analyzed data collected over more than two decades. In 1991, more than 90,000 women completed food questionnaires about their diets during early adulthood. In 1998, 44,000 of that group completed a second survey. The key question: What did they eat during adolescence?

Every four years between 1991 and 2013, the women reported what they had eaten over the previous year. During the 22 years of the study, 3,235 women developed invasive breast cancer. The researchers said they had teenage dietary information for 1,347 of those women.

The team's conclusion: There is an association between eating fruit during adolescence and a lower risk of breast cancer. In addition to apples, bananas and grapes, the researchers said eating oranges and kale also conferred benefits. Drinking juice did not.

Because the study was observational, the scientists said more evidence is needed to establish with certainty that fruit is a shield for breast cancer.

How to get your teenager to eat more fruit

Fruits provide vital nutrients, including potassium, fiber, vitamin C and folate (folic acid). Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories, and cholesterol-free.

If you want to add more fruit to your diet, focus on whole fruits. When buying canned, frozen or dried fruit, check the label for saturated fats and added sugars as they can counteract the natural goodness of the fruit.

Here are 10 tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you and your teenagers eat more fruits.

  1. Keep visible reminders: Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter or in the refrigerator.
  2. Think about taste: Buy fresh fruits when they are in season for peak flavor. Add fruits to sweeten a recipe instead of sugar.
  3. Think about variety: Buy fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen and canned in 100 percent juice so you always have options on hand.
  4. Don't forget fiber: Choose whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice for the benefits that dietary fiber provides.
  5. Be a good role model: Set an example for your kids by eating fruit every day with your meals or as snacks.
  6. Include fruit at breakfast: Top your cereal with bananas, peaches or strawberries. Add blueberries to pancakes. Drink 100 percent orange or grapefruit juice. Mix fruit with low-fat yogurt.
  7. Eat fruit at lunch: Pack a tangerine, banana or grapes for your teen's lunch or as a snack.
  8. Experiment with fruit at dinner: Add crushed pineapple (in its own juice) to coleslaw, or include orange sections, dried cranberries or grapes in a tossed salad. Try fruit salsa on fresh fish or fish tacos.
  9. Snack on fruits: Keep dried fruits around for your teen to pick up on the way out the door or after school. They're easy to carry and they store well.
  10. Keep fruits safe: Remember to rinse fruits before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub fruits briskly to removed dirt and surface microorganisms.

To learn more about improving your family’s diet, talk with your pediatrician or health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.

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