According to a study just published from the University of Rochester Medical Center and Wilmot Cancer Institute, breast cancer patients who ate a plant based whole foods diet enjoyed a number of health benefits. DOI: 10.1007/s10549-024-07284-z

 This study enrolled breast cancer patients with metastatic disease classified as stage 4 cancer. They were on a stable treatment regimen, and not suffering side effects of treatment that would interfere with their food intake. Lead researcher Thomas Campbell, MD, a professor of Family Medicine at the U. of Rochester Medical Center commented, “It’s exciting to see that these major dietary changes were feasible, well-tolerated, and acceptable to the clinical trial participants.”

For an eight week period the study participants were given an entirely whole foods, plant based diet. At the end of the eight weeks they reported improvements in their perceived sense of well being, and felt that they had better mental acuity. They lost weight, had their cholesterol levels drop and metabolic factors in their blood tests improved.  In the past stage 4 cancer patients had generally not been chosen for such studies, but with increasing numbers of such cancer patients available, the U. of Rochester researchers availed themselves of the number of possible participants available to do this research. The health benefits of plant based diets for those with cancer has previously shown to support the hypothesis that this type of diet can have positive effects on cancer patients.

In this research study the participants were divided into two groups: One group was given just the standard care protocols, and the intervention group were provided with the meals that they would eat for eight weeks. Their diet consisted entirely of  whole grains (including whole grain pasta), vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, potatoes and beans. They ate no animal-based foods – eggs, meats or dairy. They were also provided a daily multivitamin. The study participants were not on an exact menu plan and were not given a specific required calorie intake, but were told to eat as often as they wished as long as the food item was within the guidelines acceptable for the study. The researchers monitored them weekly and reported a 95 percent compliance rate among the study subjects.

At the beginning of the study the women were found to have an average BMI of 29.7, which is considered borderline obese. On their plant based whole-foods diet they lost between one and two pounds per week over the eight weeks. Dr Campbell says, “Although we cannot say anything yet about whether the diet can stop cancer progression from this small study, we saw preliminary results that suggest favorable changes within the body, which is very positive,” Campbell said.

Why would this help not only the patients’ well being but their cancer as well ? Excess body weight increases insulin levels and hormones like estrogen which can promote cancer growth .

This study was able to generate more information which was published in two further studies, one in the Journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 2024:  A whole-food, plant-based randomized controlled trial in metastatic breast cancer: weight, cardiometabolic, and hormonal outcomes DOI: 10.1007/s10549- 024-07266-1 and

Changes in the consumption of isoflavones, omega-6, and omega-3 fatty acids in women with metastatic breast cancer adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet: Frontiers in Nutrition, 2024; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2024.1338392

It is known that cancer cells may be fueled by amino acids which are higher in animal proteins, and those who follow plant-based diets may lower blood levels of amino acids. To become familiar with plant-based recipes Dr Campbell says,  “You only need five-10 plant-based recipes that are easy, tasty, and convenient enough that you will make them regularly to have a substantial overhaul in your diet”. To get started he recommends these websites:, and

The American Cancer Society has for a long time been a source of educational information highlighting the benefits of a proper diet on cancer. They have produced “The New American Plate”    as a guide to help people transition to the type of diet that research has shown to be beneficial.

The organization City of Hope also makes available extensive information on plant based diets.,diets%20 may%20 lower%20 cancer%20risk.

This report educates the public about the extensive amount of research that shows that eating a healthy diet has many proven health benefits, giving cancer patients more of the nutrients they need. It promotes weight loss and keeps their muscles and bones in better condition to help them manage some of the treatment related side effects that frequently occur. This helps them maintain the strength they need to help their recovery.

What has been called the SAD diet (Standard American Diet)  has too many processed foods containing excess sugar, calories and fat. It is discussed  in the NIH review paper

The Standard American Diet and its relationship to the health status of Americans

The American Institute for Cancer Research promotes a diet based on eating a variety of whole foods that are high in nutritional value – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

Carolyn Lammersfeld, of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America® says, “If you’re eating the SAD diet, where you’ve got a big piece of meat and you might have one broccoli floret, it’s flipping that, so that meals are planned around whole grains, vegetables and beans. Meat, if you have animal foods, are more of a complement.” They feel that healthier diets are more plant-based and can vary from being strict vegetarian to those considered which they call  “plant forward” lowering but not eliminating animal proteins. Th Mediterranean Diet, emphasizes plant-based foods but may include small amounts of meat or other animal-based food products. This is outilined in the NIH review Cancer and Mediterranean Diet: A Review

As more and more research is done it becomes increasingly evident that plant based diets provide a myriad of benefits, both with regard to risk of disease and also for stopping the progression of many disease states. The risk and development of heart disease, dementia, cancer, and many other conditions have been shown to be favorably affected by plant based diets.

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