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Jamie Joyner-Cassell, RD, LD, HFS, St. Luke's Hospital

Research on veggies and red wine in the fight against breast cancer

Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer affecting women in the United States; more than 230,000 women were diagnosed in 2011. Studies regarding lifestyle factors that decrease the risk and improve outcomes of breast cancer are being conducted regularly. Two of the more recent ones focused on the effects of red wine and cruciferous vegetables on breast cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables are gaining attention, thanks to a new study conducted in China which suggests that women diagnosed with breast cancer who consumed the most cruciferous vegetables had the best outcomes compared to those who consumed the least. These outcomes suggest that cruciferous vegetables (like green cabbage, mustard and turnip greens, kale, arugula and broccoli) have a beneficial impact on improving the breast cancer survival rate and preventing its recurrence in survivors. While previous studies focused on vegetable intake and prevention, this is one of the first to look at the impact of consuming vegetables after diagnosis.

Exactly how much of these cruciferous vegetables must be consumed to see these benefits is yet to be determined. The average cruciferous vegetable intake of women in the study was about 3.5 ounces, while the average American woman only consumes about one ounce of cruciferous veggies each day. The American Cancer Society recommends a minimum of 2.5 cups of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, so think about adding some kale at dinner tonight.

New research has also suggested that a glass of red wine daily may help decrease breast cancer risk. This study suggests that certain chemicals in red wine behave similarly to aromatase inhibitors, which are used to treat breast cancer. This is contradictory to previous research showing that alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk.

This doesn't mean that if you don't drink wine that you need to start or that more is better. But, if you decide to have a glass of wine every once in a while, you may want to consider making it red wine. If you choose to have a drink occasionally, remember to do so in moderation.

Jamie Joyner-Cassell, RD, LD, HFS, is a registered and licensed dietitian and an ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist for St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-442-3238 or visit the Nutrition Wellness Center page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 6, 2012.