RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Most Americans don't eat enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains. Research now says adding fiber to the teen diet may help lower the risk of breast cancer. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Conversations about the benefits of fiber are probably more common in nursing homes than high schools. But along comes a new study that could change that. Kristi King is a dietitian at Texas Children's Hospital. She sees a lot of teenage patients, and it's hard to get their attention about healthy eating. But telling them that eating lots of high-fiber foods could reduce the risk of breast cancer, that's a powerful message.
KRISTI KING: That touches a nerve with them.
AUBREY: The new findings, which are published in the Journal of Pediatrics, are based on a study of 44,000 women. They were surveyed about their diets during high school, and their eating habits were tracked for two decades. It turns out that those who consumed the highest levels of fiber during adolescence had a 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer before menopause compared to the women who ate the least fiber. Here's Kimberly Blackwell, a breast cancer specialist at the Duke Medical Center who reviewed the findings.
KIMBERLY BLACKWELL: This is a really important study demonstrating that the more fiber you eat during your high school years, the lower your risk is in developing breast cancer.
AUBREY: Blackwell points to long-standing evidence that fiber may reduce circulating estrogen levels, which could explain the reduced risk.
BLACKWELL: Bottom line here is the more fiber you eat, perhaps, a lower level of estrogen in your body, and therefore, a lower lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
AUBREY: High-fiber diets are also linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. That's why women are told to eat 25 grams a day - men even more. And dietitian Kristi King says it's not that tough.
KING: Add fiber at each meal.
AUBREY: If you start your day with a banana and a cup of oatmeal, you're already about a third of the way there. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.