Many genetic and environmental factors can increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.
One such factor is the amount of fat you consume.
The fat you consume is usually stored as a reserve in the adipose tissue and used as an energy source when you consume fewer calories than what the body needs.
Fats play a role in protecting your internal organs, keeping you warm, and controlling the action of different hormones.
High levels of dietary fat may increase the sex hormones in a woman’s body (estrogen and progesterone). Some researchers assume that this may be why fats increase the risk of breast cancer, especially hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers.
High dietary fat intake also increases the risk of obesity. Obesity, in turn, increases postmenopausal ER-positive breast cancer risk by increasing estrogen production in the body.
A 2003 study assessed the risk of breast cancer in 90,655 premenopausal women between the ages of 26 and 46. This 8-year study identified 714 cases of breast cancer during the follow-up.
According to the study, women who had consumed high animal dietary fats had a slightly increased risk for breast cancer. The study identified that red meat, animal fat, and dairy products specifically increased cancer risk.
Does The Type of Fat Matter?
There are four major types of dietary fatty acids.
Saturated and trans fat are considered unhealthy fats as they increase blood cholesterol levels and lead to heart conditions.
Unsaturated fats are healthy as they bring down cholesterol levels and also boost heart health.
When it comes to breast cancer risk, the type of fat you consume definitely matters. Many studies relate saturated fats and trans fats to an increased risk for breast cancer. Conversely, some unsaturated fats seem to be protective against breast cancer.
A 2003 meta analysis studies the risk of breast cancer in people who consumed excess dietary fats.
According to the meta-analysis, short-term and long-term studies found that people who consumed excessive saturated fats and meat had a 13% higher risk of breast cancer.
Another combined analysis study that included data from 12 case-controlled studies found a positive relationship between saturated fat intake and breast cancer.
This study also reports that with changes in the diet, up to 24% of postmenopausal women and 16% of premenopausal women in North America decreased their risk of developing breast cancer.
Industrial Trans Fatty Acids (ITFAs) are trans fats produced in industries and added to various dairy products, snacks, and pastries. Ruminant Trans Fatty Acids (RTFAs) are made in the bodies of cows, goats, sheep, and other animals as a result of bacterial action. RTFAs are present in most animal fats, and consuming these fats increase RTFA levels in the body.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) found a positive relationship between ITFA and RTFA consumption and the risk of breast cancer in 318,607 women.
A 2005 study analyzed the effects of unsaturated fatty acids on breast cancer risk. The study reported that omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, brought down the risk of breast cancer.
In contrast, omega-6 fatty acids, a different kind of polyunsaturated fatty acid, increased the risk of breast cancer.
A 2015 article observed the interaction of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in the development of breast cancer in 1463 breast cancer patients and 1500 controls. The study suggests that American women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by increasing their omega-3 fatty acid intake (omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties) and decreasing the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (Omega-6 induces inflammation).
When it comes to MUFAs, the type of food plays a role in increasing or decreasing cancer risk.
A 1993 meta-analysis study reported that MUFAs also increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Another study reported that oleic acid and palmitic acid, types of monounsaturated fatty acids, increased the risk of breast cancer in women.
Olive oil, which is rich in MUFA, seems to protect against cancers, though. People who chose olive oil over other lipids like butter had high levels of protection against all cancers, including breast cancer.
The DOCK1 gene (Dedicator of cytokinesis gene) helps create the DOCK180 protein that plays a role in signaling between cells.
rs113847670 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the DOCK1 gene. It is associated with breast cancer risk. The T allele of this SNP results in 5 times higher risk of developing breast cancer on excess intake of saturated fats.
|T||5-times higher risk of developing breast cancer on excess intake of saturated fats|
|C||Normal risk of breast cancer on excess intake of saturated fats|
Obesity is one of the factors that can contribute to increased breast cancer risk. Excess intake of fats can lead to weight gain and obesity too. As a result, the combination of obesity and excess fat intake can aggravate breast cancer risk.
This is true, especially in post-menopausal women. Such women can bring down their risk of breast cancer by limiting saturated and trans-fat intake.
Other than cutting back on fats, the following dietary changes can help lower breast cancer risk:
Genetic testing will tell how harmful fat consumption is for your body. If you are at higher risk of developing breast cancer because of fat intake, talk to a nutritionist to control the risk.
The sun has always been the most important source of energy for all living beings in the world. The sun makes life possible.
Your body needs sunlight to stay healthy. Sunlight is the major source of vitamin D for human beings.
Vitamin D is a kind of fat-soluble vitamin needed by all living beings. This vitamin is also known as calciferol. Though it is present in a few food sources like fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), mushrooms, and egg yolks, a majority of vitamin D is obtained from sunlight naturally.
Depending on their chemical composition, there are 5 different types of vitamin D available.
Out of these, Vitamin D2 and D3 are the major ones usually discussed.
Rickets is a condition that causes soft bones in children. The telltale signs of rickets are bowed legs, an abnormally large forehead, a curved spine, and stunted growth.
There are mentions of children born with deformed bones as early as in the first and second centuries AD. Though rickets was not identified as a specific medical condition until 1645, instances of children born with bone deformities were quite common.
Until the early 20th century, the reason and cure for rickets remained a mystery. Parents with newborns had no idea whether their child would grow up healthy or end up with bone deformities and stunted growth.
In 1914, Elmer McCollum, an American biochemist, identified that a certain additive in cod liver oil helped prevent rickets. He assumed it was vitamin A.
In 1922, he realized that cod liver oil without vitamin A, also prevented rickets. This led to the identification of a new 4th vitamin in history and this was named vitamin D. At that time, people did not realize sunlight could produce vitamin D.
That knowledge was brought forth by another American physician Alfred Hess who concluded “Light equals vitamin D”
The skin consists of two layers - the outermost layer, epidermis and the inner layer, dermis. The epidermis is made up of 5 layers. Vitamin D is produced using sunlight by the two innermost layers of the epidermis.
7-Dehydrocholesterol, also known as 7-DHC, is a chemical compound that is made in the skin in large quantities. 7-DHC reacts with the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and is converted into vitamin D.
This process happens in the arms, legs, and face. The produced vitamin D is then carried in the blood to the liver. Here it is converted into a pre-hormone (a chemical substance produced by glands that is later converted into hormones) known as calcifediol.
Calcifediol is then converted into calcitriol in the kidneys, which is the vitamin D form actually used by the body. From here, calcitriol is sent out for circulation.
More and more doctors and scientists globally are encouraging people to increase their vitamin D intake to prevent the severity of the COVID-19 infection.
With the vaccine for coronavirus still not approved or available, people are looking towards alternate solutions to boost their immunity. Vitamin D has emerged as a powerful nutrient to keep away infections.
There are a few notable studies conducted around the world that link vitamin D deficiency to an increased risk of developing COVID-19. Some studies say people living in areas that receive lesser amounts of sunlight see higher coronavirus deaths.
Few other studies point to the fact that people with vitamin D deficiency seem to have worse symptoms when they test positive for the infection.
While there could be links between vitamin D consumption and the effects of the coronavirus, as of now, there is no solid proof that the vitamin can completely prevent or cure the infection.
The National Institutes of Health has also given out a statement stating that there is no evidence vitamin D can treat COVID-19.
However, making sure you get your recommended dose of vitamin D will definitely keep your immune system healthy during this pandemic.
According to the Food and Nutrition Board, here are the daily recommended intake values of vitamin D.
Excess quantities of vitamin D are unsafe. When you consume excess vitamin D, the calcium levels in the body increase too. This condition is called hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia can result in the below conditions:
Vitamin D toxicity can also cause hypercalciuria (excess calcium in the urine). Extreme cases of vitamin D toxicity can lead to renal failure, irregular heartbeat, and even death.
Overexposure to the sun does not usually cause vitamin D toxicity because the skin learns to regulate the amount of vitamin D it produces. However, excessive use of tanning beds and excess consumption of vitamin D supplements can both cause vitamin D toxicity.
When your vitamin D levels are low because of unhealthy eating habits and less/no exposure to sunlight, you can get vitamin D deficient with time.
In children, vitamin D deficiency is reflected as rickets disease. Children can also suffer from developmental delays and dental problems early on. In adults, this can cause a condition called osteomalacia. Osteomalacia causes soft and weak bones. Adults also develop dental issues because of vitamin D deficiency.
There are two genes that seem to affect vitamin D concentrations in the body. Variations in these genes can cause increased/decreased needs for vitamin D.
GC gene - The GC gene is responsible for making the Vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) that helps in transporting vitamin D. One particular variant (type) of the GC gene is known to cause vitamin D deficiency.
CYP27B1 gene - The CYP27B1 gene is responsible for making vitamin D active and available for use by the cells in the body. One particular type of this gene can cause lowered vitamin D levels in the body.
Vitamin D is a hot topic these days. We get it from the sun, fortified milk, butter, ghee, soybeans, soy milk, cheese, eggs and certain types of fish and mushrooms. It’s usually credited with promoting bone strength and overall health. And vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many chronic diseases, including, but not limited to, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
A recent study revealed that a whopping 70% of the Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency. This study further adds that sunlight exposure is not a tenable solution to obtain vitamin D sufficiency among Indians, as darker skin has high melanin content and produces a significantly lesser amount of vitamin D when compared with individuals with fairer skin. Indian skin tone requires daily sunlight exposure of at least 45 minutes to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
You may also need more vitamin D depending on the genes that you carry. Variations in two genes, GC and VDR, are responsible for lower vitamin D levels. The GC gene produces the main transporter of vitamin D in circulation while VDR gene produces vitamin D receptor which allows the body to respond appropriately to vitamin D. Compared to others, people carrying one type of GC and one type of VDR need to ensure they have adequate sun exposure or dietary intake of vitamin D to avoid deficiency.
Various nutritional factors attributing to high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in India are:
|Most Indians are vegetarians and most of the foods rich in vitamin D are of animal origin. Indian diets are low in calcium and high in phytate. High prevalence of lactose intolerance is a major factor for reduced intake of calcium and vitamin D. Intake of caffeine from coffee and tea is high in India.|
Factors such as age (old age), body weight (people with a body mass index of 30 or greater), problems of the digestive tract like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis, kidney problems results in low blood levels of vitamin D.
The National Institute of Nutrition recommends 200 units, 5 mcg of vitamin D everyday. The following are the recommendations from the vitamin D council:
|It is essential to maintain healthy levels by including fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk and other fortified foods such as cereals etc. Vitamin D supplements could be a good alternative. Many forms of vitamin D exist, with vitamin D3 the most effectively used in the body. Get adequate sunlight exposure: The amount of vitamin D you get from exposing your bare skin to the sun depends on the time of the day, where you live, the color of your skin and the amount of skin you expose.|
Want to know what type of VDR and GC gene you have, Xcode’s nutrigenetics test can tell you what versions of the VDR & GC gene you have in your DNA. You can also learn about how your genes may influence other traits, including your risk for certain diseases. You can write to us at email@example.com.