Foods That Can Lower Lung Cancer Risk


Researchers have discovered that a diet rich in fiber and yogurt may protect against lung cancer.

A diet high in fiber and yogurt consumption may protect against lung cancer, according to recent study findings published in JAMA Oncology.

In the study, researchers discovered that those who consumed the highest amount of yogurt and fiber had more than a 30% lower risk of developing lung cancer compared with those who didn’t eat yogurt and consumed the least amount of fiber. In addition, the benefit was higher in those who never smoked tobacco. These findings were consistent across gender, race/ethnicity and tumor type, the researchers wrote.

Researchers evaluated more than 1 million people from a pooled analysis of studies that took place in the United States, Europe and Asia. The analyses were conducted from November 2017 to February 2019.

The patient population included 817,862 women with a mean age of 54.8 years and 627,988 men with a mean age of 57.9 years. Nearly 19,000 lung cancer cases were documented during a median follow-up of 8.6 years.

Although there is no clear answer as to why the association between yogurt and fiber consumption and reduced lung cancer rates exists, researchers believe it could have something to do with the body’s immune function. “There were some points in the discussion about how it can affect the body’s ability to process and create a stronger immune environment,” Rachel Wong, a registered dietician certified in oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in an interview with CURE®. “I’ve had doctors talk about how immune function really does impact the patient’s ability to tolerate therapy and have better outcomes. Improving immune function, in this case higher fiber and yogurt intake, is the association here of how that can prevent incidences of lung cancer.”

In addition, prebiotics and probiotics may play a protective role against lung cancer, researchers concluded. Wong, who is not an author on the study, explained how the two work together. “Prebiotics are considered the food source for the probiotics, which are healthy bacteria,” Wong said. “So in order for the probiotics to be effective, the probiotics need to be consumed with prebiotics. For example, bananas are a great prebiotic, so when consuming yogurt, bananas are great to incorporate with it.” Other prebiotic foods include asparagus, chia seeds, garlic, leeks, onions and spinach.

A diet full of fruits and vegetables can have a positive effect on the body. Obtaining fiber from plant-based foods will help provide an enhanced immune effect and give a person antioxidants that come with those foods, Wong explained.

“Finding a way to incorporate specific foods like yogurt is an easy way to help protect against cancer,” Wong said. “Try to make this part of your regular diet.” For people who don’t like yogurt, Wong suggested the following: Use non-fat plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream on a baked potato; add some to a soup, smoothie or cream-based sauce; mix with chicken salad; and, for an easy breakfast, use it as a base for overnight oats.

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Image of Dr. Minesh Mehta at ASCO 2024.