Dieting for two days a week can almost half the risk of breast cancer
Published 06/10/2010 | 10:00
Dieting for two days every week could reduce women's chances of developing breast cancer by almost half, scientists have claimed.
A study found that when overweight women were put on a restrictive diet there was a reduction of up to 40pc in cancer-causing hormones following an average drop in weight of 13lb.
The Wythenshawe Hospital study was led by Dr Michelle Harvie and examined 100 overweight women from Greater Manchester, with half following a 650-calorie-a-day diet for two days a week, and the rest following a 1,500-calorie-a-day diet for the entire week.
After six months on the diets, the women's levels of the hormone leptin was down 40pc, their insulin levels down 25pc and their levels of inflammatory protein down 15pc. All three have been linked to breast cancer.
The other women followed a 1,500-calorie-a day Mediterranean diet. They showed similar weight loss and hormone reductions.
Dr Harvie said the new diet could be a life-saver for women who found it difficult to stay on a diet for a week.
Among the women who took part in the trial was research professor Gillian Haddock, who had been in a high-risk group for the disease. She lost a stone in six months on the diet and is now recommending it to her friends. Pamela Goldberg, chief executive of the Breast Cancer Campaign, said: "There are many breast cancer risk factors that can't be controlled, such as age, gender and family history - but staying at a healthy weight is one positive step that can be taken.
"This intermittent dieting approach provides an alternative to conventional dieting which could help with weight loss, but also potentially reduce the risk of developing breast cancer."
Prof Haddock said: "I felt it was a really good study to be part of, and could provide women with some new options to improve their health.
"I had a family history of breast cancer, so I was relatively high risk. I found traditional diets, with calorie counting and preparations difficult to stick to.
"I used to follow the 650-calorie diet on a Monday and Tuesday and it was great because I knew that by Wednesday I would be eating normally.
"It really suited me, I did it on my busiest work days and I would mainly have the milky drinks while I was at work so I didn't have to worry about shopping or taking in a specially prepared packed lunch."
Example of 650 calorie day
Two pints of semi-skimmed milk, 1 portion of fruit, four portions of vegetables or salad:
Fruit tea and a banana, or mug of milky coffee
Can of diet cola, or cup of tea and plum
Carrot and coriander soup and half-pint of milk, or salad, glass of squash and half-pint of milk
Glass of squash, or glass of sparkling water and satsuma
Soy sauce and ginger stir-fry with two vegetables and glass of water, or vegetable curry with two veg, half-pint of milk and cup of tea
Pint of milk, or hot milk with cinnamon and sweeteners.