As seasons change, so should diet for breast cancer survivors

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Just as the four seasons bring changes in nature, they also impact how our bodies assimilate and metabolize food.

Research finds winter brings higher metabolic rates compared with summer, and so it calls for energy efficient foods.

In a new study, researchers found some foods such as red meats that may cause higher inflammation levels in summer actually assimilate better in the winter.

The research was conducted by a team at San Diego State University.

Traditional Chinese medicine advises changing diet according to the season, and while it is one of the research emphasis features of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, studies in this area are limited.

In the study, the team looked at data to determine whether metabolism and inflammation levels linked to certain foods differed across seasons.

They analyzed the results of blood tests done during different times of the year for inflammation biomarkers in nearly 3,000 women who are breast cancer survivors.

The researchers found fruits and vegetables offered the most benefits in spring and summer while red meat consumed in small quantities in winter was better than none.

They say that meat is a thermogenesis food, meaning it generates heat, which helps with blood circulation and energy expenditure and favors the retention of lean muscle mass.

The biomarker they studied, C-reactive protein, indicates inflammation levels in blood circulation.

The team cautioned that these findings pertain only to women who were breast cancer survivors, and inflammation markers may behave very differently in someone who is generally healthy.

About 40% of the study participants were past smokers and the rest had no smoking history.

Deeper analysis showed that seasonal diet had less of an impact in improving inflammation in women who had a long and intense smoking history, compared to those who had not smoked for long or were non-smokers, who did gain from adjusting their diet.

Red meat is a heavily acidic food which makes it harder to process, especially for cancer survivors who have a reduced ability to excrete acids.

Given this concern, the team recommends consuming about 100 grams or 3.5 ounces per week of fresh, unprocessed beef, lamb, or pork.

One author of the study is Tianying Wu.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

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