An anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory diet before the disease may contribute to a better prognosis in breast cancer survivors

  • A study led by researchers from the Nutrition and Cancer research group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) examined the relationship between dietary patterns before breast cancer diagnosis and the survival of these patients.
NO017 - C Espin_BJC - Imatge noti

A study led by researchers from the Nutrition and Cancer research group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), published in the scientific journal British Journal of Cancer, examined the relationship between dietary patterns before the diagnosis of breast cancer and patient survival. The study was carried out from a European cohort that includes 13,270 women with breast cancer from 9 different countries and who have been followed up for an average of nine years after their diagnosis.

Based on the information on diet collected in the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation in Cancer and Nutrition) three dietary patterns have been calculated that are related to key biological mechanisms in breast cancer: estrogen levels, resistance to insulin, and chronic low-grade inflammation. Subsequently, it was analyzed the relationship between each of these diet patterns and breast cancer survival.


The relationship between dietary patterns and survival in breast cancer


The dietary pattern associated with a lower risk of diabetes also called the “anti-diabetic diet”, includes fiber, coffee, nuts, healthy fats, whole fruit with a low glycemic index, low consumption of trans fats, sweetened beverages, juices, and red and processed meat. The results observed indicate that those women who followed a more anti-diabetic diet before being diagnosed with breast cancer, had a 22% higher survival rate than women who followed more pro-diabetic diets. In contrast, women who followed more pro-inflammatory diets before diagnosis (rich in meat, sugary products, and fats) had 6% lower survival compared with women who followed more anti-inflammatory diets. On the other hand, those women who had a diet with characteristics of anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory patterns (more consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole wheat bread, fish, yogurt, coffee, and tea), had a 17% increase in survival after diagnosis compared with those following opposite dietary patterns (pro-diabetic and pro-inflammatory).

For the researcher of the Nutrition and Cancer research group at IDIBELL and the ICO and first author of the study, Carlota Castro-Espin, “this study, and the data that can be extracted, provide evidence that adherence to an antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory diet could improve the prognosis of women with breast cancer. Therefore, this can help to define specific dietary recommendations for these patients, which, at the moment, do not exist” and adds “however, additional studies are needed to examine other dietary patterns and especially studies where nutritional intervention programs are evaluated in breast cancer survivors to be able to establish these recommendations”.



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).

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