By Laurie McGinley

The Washington Post

Women who followed a lower-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains had a lower risk of dying from breast cancer than those on a higher-fat diet, according to results from a major study.

The conclusions, from the latest analysis of the federally funded Women’s Health Initiative, provide the first randomized clinical trial evidence that diet can reduce postmenopausal women’s risk of dying from breast cancer, the researchers said.

The trial involved more than 48,000 women who did not have breast cancer when they enrolled in the study conducted at 40 centers across the United States. From 1993 to 1998, the women were randomly assigned to follow their usual diet, in which fat accounted for 32% of daily calories on average, or to try to reduce fat intake to 20% of calories while consuming daily servings of vegetables, fruit and grains.

The dietary-intervention group fell short of the goal; they managed to reduce their fat consumption to about 24.5%, and then “drifted up to about 29%,” according to lead study author Rowan Chlebowski of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Members of the group lost 3% of their body weight on average. Still, the women in that group who developed breast cancer had a lower risk of death than the women who followed their regular diets and developed the disease.