High saturated fat diet linked to lung cancer risk

August 15, 2017 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

High saturated fat diet linked to lung cancer risk

People who eat a lot of saturated fat, the type of fat that’s abundant in fatty meats and high fat dairy products, are more likely to develop lung cancer than people who eat low-fat diets, a recent study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville suggests. 

Compared to adults who didn’t get a lot of fat in their diets, people who ate the most total fat and saturated fat were 14 percent more likely to get lung malignancies, the study found. For current and former smokers, the added risk of a high fat diet was 15 percent. 

While the best way to lower the risk of lung cancer is to not smoke, a healthy diet may also help reduce lung cancer risk, the researchers noted.

More polyunsaturated fat, less saturated fat protective

Specifically, the findings suggest that increasing polyunsaturated fat intake while reducing saturated fat intake, especially among smokers and recent quitters, may help prevent not only cardiovascular disease but also lung cancer.

Good sources of polyunsaturated fat include grapeseed, sunflower, safflower, sesame, canola and corn oils. Soybeans, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds are also good sources. Oily fish such as salmon, trout, Arctic char, sardines, herring, mackerel and anchovies are plentiful in omega-3 fats, a type of polyunsaturated fat.

Related: A Primer on Saturated fat

The American Heart Association recommends the Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or a Mediterranean-style diet to help prevent cardiovascular disease. Both diets emphasize cooking with vegetable oils with unsaturated fats, eating nuts, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and poultry, and limiting red meat and added sugars and salt. 

The for preventing heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are the same for reducing cancer risk prevention, and lung cancer in particular, say researchers.

About the study

For the study, researchers examined data from 10 previously published studies in the United States, Europe and Asia that looked at how dietary fat intake influences the risk of lung cancer.

Researchers sorted participants into five categories, from lowest to highest consumption of total and saturated fat. They also sorted participants into five groups ranging from the lowest to highest amounts of dietary unsaturated fats. 

Overall, people who ate the most unsaturated fats were 8 percent less likely to develop lung cancer than people who ate the least amounts.

Substituting five percent of calories from saturated fat with unsaturated fat was associated with a 16 percent lower risk of small cell lung cancer and 17 percent lower odds of another type of lung malignancy known as squamous cell carcinoma. 

Study limitations

One limitation of the study is that dietary information was only obtained at one point which makes it impossible to track how changes in eating habits might influence the risk of cancer. 

The researchers also didn’t account for two other things that may contribute to cancer: sugar and trans fat intake.

It’s also possible that other bad eating habits, not high saturated fat intake, contributed to the increased risk of lung cancer. 

A diet that provides antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and unsaturated fatty acids is important for health, researchers say. Out typical Western diet, however, is low in these essential nutrients and a high in saturated fat.

Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology, online July 25, 2017.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.