As a Hillsboro, OR family medical practice, our staff at Health First Family Medicine wants patients to understand how diet can affect their overall health. While most of the time we think about diet as a means of preventing illness, studies have found that diet is equally effective at helping us overcome illness, as well.
In addition to being a wonderful source of protein, tofu lovers have another reason to tout the benefits of soy to those remaining skeptics. A recent study of women from Shanghai, China, where soy accounts for a major dietary component, has found that diet high in tofu and other soy products may help women fighting lung cancer live longer.
Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the study found links between eating high amounts of soy prior to a lung cancer diagnosis with longer survival rates. This study marks the first time that researchers have found a link between lung cancer survival rates and soy based food consumption. However, researchers did find that eating small amounts of soy in the years prior to a lung cancer diagnosis offered little benefit when compared to a lifetime of soy consumption.
A Global Epidemic
While heart disease ranks as the number one cause of death among women in the United States, lung cancer ranks as the number one cause of death among women worldwide. Usually developing in the lung tissue cells that line air passageways, globally lung cancer has a much worse survival rate when compared to breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Public health officials estimate that lung cancer will cause twice the number of death globally as breast cancer in the near future.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks cigarette smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer, the majority of Chinese women involved in the study were nonsmokers. That so many more Chinese women who had never taken up smoking as a habit when compared to American women who never smoked is a troubling sign to researchers, which could suggest a genetic mutation in Chinese women that make them more likely to develop the disease.
Considering this implication, the fact that diet may help improve a woman’s longevity after developing lung cancer could play an instrumental role in saving the lives of millions of Chinese women, and that of women worldwide.
To discover this latest finding, researchers used data from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, which had worked to determine cancer prevalence in over 75,000 female participants. As part of the study, researchers collected data about each woman’s diet, including the amount of soy based foods –such as soy sprouts, soybeans, tofu, and milk- they consumed.
Researchers found that approximately 450 women involved in the study were eventually received a lung cancer diagnosis. Researchers then divided those women in to three groups depending on the amount of soy they had reported eating prior to receiving their diagnosis. Women in the highest group consumed roughly four ounces of tofu a day, while women in the bottom group consumed less that two ounces daily.
Over the course of the study, over 300 of the woman died from their cancer. Of the women in the highest soy consumption category, 60 percent lived at least 12 months following their diagnosis, while 50 percent of the women in the lowest category lived at least 12 months. Researchers determined that while a higher soy intake does help to decrease a woman’s risk of death, the benefits offer from tofu seemed to level off after consuming four ounces a day.
The Benefits of Soy
While researchers don’t know conclusively what about soybeans provides the food with its cancer-slowing properties, they do know that soy contains isoflavones that can act like selective estrogen modulators, which have a similar effect to tamoxifen, a drug used to fight breast cancer.
Researchers also don’t yet know whether certain types of soy have more beneficial effects than others and whether or not the age a person starts consuming soy, such as before puberty, makes a difference.
The study does suggest, however, that diet can play a beneficial role in helping to prevent and delay the onset of cancer, which move researchers another step closer towards fully understanding this disease.
If you have any questions about how diet can help improve your health, feel free to ask any member of our Hillsboro, OR family medical practice staff during your next visit.